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Understanding computer viruses and malware

What are viruses, worms and Trojans?

Viruses, worms and Trojans are malicious programs (or malware) that are transmitted through email, instant messages, web downloads or shared USB devices. Once a device is infected, these malicious programs can cause serious harm by destroying data, stealing personal information or locking a device and/or data for ransom.

How to protect yourself:

  • Be wary of email and instant messaging attachments or files, even if they are from people you know.
  • Scan downloads with anti-virus software before installing them.
  • Ensure your anti-virus software is up-to-date and reliable.

For Bell customers, anti-virus is available with your Internet service.

What is spyware?

Spyware is software that collects and sends information from your computer without your permission.

How to protect yourself:

  • Watch out for unexpected offers, warnings and dialog boxes that suddenly pop up while you’re online. Avoid clicking on them, and attempt to close the window. If you cannot, close the browser tab or window from which it originated.
  • Be wary of peer-to-peer sharing.
  • Always read the End User License Agreement (EULA) when downloading from trusted sources.
  • Get rid of spyware on your computer with anti-spyware software.

For Bell customers, anti-spyware is available with your Internet service.

Hackers are people who try to get your personal information like credit card numbers and passwords by getting into your computer remotely. They may also try to get social insurance numbers and other important information so they can commit fraud.

Hackers get into your computer using viruses and specialized software, but they may also get access by simply looking over your shoulder in a public place.

How to protect yourself:

  • Update your software and operating system: Upgrades have the latest technology which can make them more secure and worth the investment to stay up to date.
  • Firewall: Ensure that you have an up-to-date network firewall and that the firewall that is part of your laptop’s operating system is also running and up to date
  • Anti-virus: Keep your anti-virus software up to date and consider regular scans for spyware and malware.
  • Choose strong passwords you can remember without writing them down. Your personal passwords should be 12–18 characters in length and contain a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Review your credit card and bank statements, and log in regularly to your accounts to check the activity.
Be careful in public places: If you use a public computer or if you use your own computer on a public network (e.g., a coffee shop) do not visit your financial institutions’ websites, or input any personal information or passwords. Be sure that no one else can see your password if you enter one to access your hard drive.

What are cookies?

Cookies are small pieces of information about you, such as what you did on a website. When you revisit the site, your browser sends the cookie back to the site to help customize what you see. Cookies are limited in what they can do and mostly don’t pose a risk to your privacy. Sometimes, however, you may want to delete your cookies, especially if you are sharing a computer or using a public computer.


How to manage browser cookies

  • Learn how to change your browser’s “cookies” setting to suit your preferences. In most browsers, your cookies options can be changed under “Tools”, “Privacy”, “Options” or “Security.” You may need to check your browser’s “Help” function to find the exact path to the cookies setting.

For Bell customers, cookies are managed through security software available with your Internet service.

Pop-ups are small windows that open automatically on some websites, partially or fully blocking your view. They usually display advertising and are not dangerous if you don’t click on them.

How to protect yourself:

  • Learn how to change your browser’s “pop-ups” setting to suit your preferences. In most browsers, your pop-ups options can be changed under “Tools”, “Privacy”, “Options” or “Security.” You may need to check your browser’s “Help” function to find the exact path to the pop-ups setting.