How Does a Computer Get Infected with Viruses, Spyware or Malware?

There are dozens of ways a computer get infected with spyware, viruses, or malware. The constant use of Internet has increased the risk of infection by viruses and malware, leading to potential data loss and identity theft. Every internet user should be versed in how to prevent virus infection. Armed with the knowledge to avoid getting and spreading virus infections, you’ll not only make the internet safer for yourself, but for everyone else you connect with.

No antivirus scanner

If you’re running a computer with Microsoft Windows, we highly recommended you have some form of antivirusspyware or malware protection. This software can remove any existing viruses or spyware, and it helps prevent future infections.

Accept without reading

One of the most common ways a computer becomes infected is when a user accepts what they see on the screen without reading the prompt before proceeding. 

  • While browsing the Internet, an Internet advertisement or window appears that says your computer is infected or that a unique plug-in is required. Without fully understanding what it is you’re getting, you accept the prompt.
  • When installing or updating a program, you’re prompted (often check boxes already checked) if it’s okay to install additional programs that you may not want or are designed to monitor your usage of the program.

Note: When installing a program you are given the options between an automatic and custom install. If you are installing something from the Internet, we suggest doing a custom install to make sure nothing else is added or changed during the install.

Download the infected software 

When downloading any software (programs, utilities, games, updates, demos, etc.) via the Internet, make sure you’re downloading the software from a reliable source. Be sure to run your downloads through your antivirus and spyware scanners upon completion. As we stated in a previous section, during the installation process, read all prompts about what the program is installing on your computer.

Open email attachments

Don’t open the email you were not expecting to receive. Computers can become infected when users open email attachments that contain malicious code. Even if the message is from a co-worker, friend, or family member, always use caution before opening a link or downloading an attachment.

Visit unknown links

It is possible for anyone to create a website and if a malicious person has designed the website it could give them access to your computer, send malicious files, or obtain sensitive information about your computer. Always be cautious and suspicious of any link sent to you over chat, e-mail, or SMS.

Pirat software, music, or movies

If you or someone on your computer is participating in unlawfully exchange copyrighted music, movies, or software, you may be at risk. Sometimes these files and programs contain viruses, spyware, trojans, or malicious software in addition to what you believe you are downloading.

Insert or connect an infected disk, disc, or drive

Any disk, disc, or thumb drive connected or inserted into your computer can be infected with a virus. As long as something is writable, a virus can move from a computer to that disk, disc, or drive. A common tactic used by hackers to gain access to a network is by leaving out a thumb drive with malicious code on it. Then, when a user puts the thumb drive into their computer, it becomes infected with a virus or trojan horse.

Not run the latest updates

Many of the updates, especially those associated with Microsoft Windows, are security oriented. Always keep your operating system and programs up to date. The plug-ins associated with your browser can also contain security vulnerabilities. To make sure you have the latest versions, run the Computer Hope tool to check installed plug-ins and their versions.


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