“Malware” is a general term for any software that performs unwanted tasks on your computer. Malware can range from annoying pop-up advertising, to malicious software such as viruses that are intended to cause damage and steal data.

How does it spread?

Malware has grown in sophistication and is now spread through a variety of clever techniques including malicious email attachments and infected websites. In some cases, malware is even installed by the user unknowingly by clicking on pop-up ads or by installing software that comes bundled with “other software”.

What does it do?

Once ransomware has been installed on a computer, it will encrypt files on the computer as well as data on files servers like Opal or Knox. Once it has finished encrypting files, a message will be displayed for the user with instructions for retrieving lost files. In some cases the message will imply that the FBI, US Department of Justice, or some other government agency encrypted your files due to illegal activity. In other cases, the criminals will state up-front that they have illegally encrypted your files and the only way to retrieve them is by paying the ransom.

Malware at MSU

Every week UIT receives reports of infected computers from MSU faculty and staff. Some examples of malware that have been seen on our campus include:

Keyloggers: Software that records every single thing thing you type and sends anything of interest to the person controlling it.

Ransomware: Malware the holds information hostage in an attempt to extort money for its release.

Data Stealers: Software that crawls through your hard drive and takes anything that might be valuable. Files containing passwords, social security. numbers,or similar information are prime targets.

Botnets: A collection of computers usually associated with malicious activity such as sending spam emails, attacking websites, or infecting other computers.