Would it surprise you to learnthat millions of computers in the US are infectedwith malware? That's a lot of computers.
So what's malware, andwhy should you care? Malware, short for malicioussoftware, includes viruses and spyware that get installed onyour computer or mobile device without you knowing it.
Criminals use malware to stealpersonal information and commit fraud.
For example, they may usemalware to steal the login information for your onlineaccounts or to hijack your computer and use itto send spam.
An infected computer can leadto serious problems, like identity theft.
The good news, there's a lot youcan do to protect yourself and your computer.
One of the most important stepsyou can take, install security software from areliable company and set it to update automatically.
The bad guys constantly developnew ways to attack your computer, so yoursoftware must be up to date to work.
Set your operating system andyour web browser to update automatically too.
If you're not sure how, use thehelp function and search for automatic updates.
Don't buy security software inresponse to unexpected calls or messages, especially if theysay they scanned your computer and found malware.
Scammers send messages likethese to trick you into buying worthless software, or worse,downloading malware.
What else can you do? Use a pop up blocker,and don't click on links and popups.
Don't click on links or openattachments in emails unless you know what they are, even ifthe emails seem to be from friends or family.
Download software only fromwebsites you know and trust.
Free stuff may sound appealing,but free downloads can hide malware.
Make sure your web browser'ssecurity setting is high enough to detect unauthorizeddownloads.
For example, use at least themedium security setting.
Even if you take precautions,malware can find its way onto your computer.
So be on the lookoutfor these signs.
Your computer runs slowly,drains its battery quickly, displays unexpected errors orcrashes, it won't shutdown or restart, it serves a lot ofpopups, takes you to web pages you didn't visit, changes yourhome page, or creates new icons or toolbars withoutyour permission.
If you suspect malware, stopdoing things that require passwords or personalinfo, such as online shopping or banking.
Use a different computer, maybeone at work or at your local library, to changeyour passwords.
Update your security softwareand run a system scan.
Delete files it flagsas malware.
If you can't fix the problem onyour own, get help from a professional.
Your computer manufacturer orinternet service provider may offer free tech support.
If not, contact a company orretail store that provides tech support.
Keep in mind, the most importantthing you can do to prevent malware is tokeep your computer software up to date.
And remember, it's easy to findtrusted information about computer security.
Just visit onguardonline.
Gov,the federal government site to help you stay safe, secure,and responsible online.