Malware and Ransomware

Keep Your Digital Devices Healthy

There are so many benefits to living in a digitally connected world, but there are also threats everyone needs to look out for. Since we—and our devices—stay connected to intricate networks, that makes us more vulnerable to things like malware. 

What is malware?

Malware is a catch-all word for any digital software or program that wants to harm your device and the information on your device. Malware can corrupt, erase, or reorganize software programs or data. Sometimes it may even grant access for unauthorized users to see your sensitive information, programs, and files. There are several different types of malware—and the list is always growing:

  • Viruses
  • Spyware and adware
  • Bots and Botnets
  • Ransomware


Viruses are malware that duplicate and spread to cause harm to computer programs. Computer viruses work similarly to human viruses like the flu, and can quickly spread across devices on the same networks. Viruses can infect and corrupt data, and disrupt normal computer functions.

Spyware and Adware

Spyware and adware are programs that can download themselves onto your devices without permission. They can get on your device while visiting an unsecured website, through an email file attachment, or through outdated software. They might open an advertisement you didn't want to see (adware) or in the worst cases, track your online movements, track personal or sensitive information, steal your passwords and compromise your accounts. Spyware and adware can be extremely difficult to remove.

Bots and Botnets

Short for robot, a bot is a malicious computer program that can make a computer zombie-like and perform a series of automated tasks with the authorized user's knowledge. That's why bots are sometimes called zombies.

Botnets are a network of bots. They are typically used to infect large numbers of computers and these computers form a network, or a botnet. Botnets can be used to send out spam email messages, spread viruses, monitor online activity, modify personal information, and commit other kinds of crime, including fraud. The goal of many botnets is to harvest data, including:

  • Passwords
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Credit card numbers
  • Addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Other personal information

Once collected, the data is often used illegally for identity theft, credit card fraud, spamming (sending junk email), website attacks, and malware distribution. If your device becomes part of a botnet, it might not work properly, and you may be an unknowing accessory to illegal activity. 


Ransomware is a type of malware that accesses your files, locks and encrypts them and then forces victims to pay a ransom to get those files back. Users typically become victims when they click on an attachment or link that appears legitimate, such as an invoice or electronic fax, but actually contains ransomware code.

Protect Yourself—and Your Devices

The easiest way to protect your data and your devices is to enable 2-factor authentication, as well as use PINs and secure passwords. Here are a few additional strategies you can use to keep your devices as safe as possible:

  • Install antivirus and anti-spyware programs from a trusted source. Anti-malware programs scan and monitor your computer for known viruses and spyware.
  • Keep all software up to date. Regularly install updates for all your software and subscribe to automatic updates wherever possible.
  • Be cautious about clicking links, opening attachments or downloading any files from emails, instant message, or social media posts. Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are common ways criminals get access to your devices. If it looks suspicious, you should delete it.
  • Use strong passwords. Coppin password policy requires passwords must be:
    • 8 characters minimum  
    • Include one upper case letter and
    • At least 1 digit
    • Must not be user’s first or last name 
  • Do not share your passwords.
  • Use flash drives cautiously. Flash drives (thumb drive/USBs) and other external devices can be infected with viruses or putting your flash drive (thumb drive/USBs) in a computer that is infected could corrupt the flash drive.
  • Be cautious of what software and applications you install. Only download software from websites you trust.
  • Don't click on links within pop-up windows. Pop-up windows are often a product of spyware, clicking on the window may install spyware software on your computer. To close the pop-up window, click on the "X" icon in the title bar instead of a "close" link within the window.

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