October 25, 2017
Writer: IT Communications Writer

During Winter 2016, Margie (name has been changed) was looking to watch the Sherlock Christmas Special, as one does. She managed to find a website, albeit one that was a bit sketchy and possibly illegal, promising a free download of the special. So she went for it; what could go wrong?

Upon downloading, she realized that what she got was free but not the Sherlock Christmas Special. Instead, it was adware, a virus that spams your Internet browser with advertisements.

It didn't take long for Margie to figure out that she had made a mistake. Every time she opened a new tab, new ads would pop up and duplicate across her computer screen. When she tried to read an article, every word would be blue (indicating a hyperlink), and when she scrolled over them with her cursor, they would take her to - you guessed it - another ad.

Finally, after braving through the army of ads keeping her from actually using her computer, she found and downloaded a free antivirus software. (She used the Internet on her blissfully non-adware-infected phone to look up the software and ensure its validity before she downloaded it!) Upon downloading the software, it told her that she did in fact have a virus on her computer (to her complete lack of surprise), scanned her computer, and got rid of the annoyance.

Don't be like Margie. Avoid adware and other viruses by following these simple tips:

Don't open spam emails. There's no telling what these emails contain, in either their content or in their links. (Plus, whatever they say is probably not that interesting anyway - unless you like being swarmed with advertisements for products you'll never use and services you'll never need.)

Be cautious of what you download. It's usually pretty easy to tell bogus downloads from legitimate ones, but just to be safe, do a little research about a program before you download it. Additionally, just make sure you're being careful, using common sense, and only downloading from legal and legitimate sources.

Avoid websites that allow you to watch movies for free. No matter how tempting it may be, don't take the bait of free movies, music, etc. Sometimes sites that offer free media will actually have a version of the media for free, but it too often comes with viruses that infect your computer. 

Make sure you have antivirus software. There are plenty of great and legitimate antivirus software programs that are also totally free and that you should totally download. If your computer contracts a virus it'll clear the virus out for you. And if you have never had a virus it'll help your computer stay that way, even if you do go astray in your search for the Sherlock Christmas Special.

For more security tips visit www.byui.edu/it/security.