Clark Howard: Free virus, spyware and malware protection guide

Clark Howard: Free virus, spyware and malware protection guide
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In this guide, we’ll walk you through a few common software terms that are designed to damage a computer without your consent. We’ll also share a few free resources that you can use to protect your information.

Malware, virus and spyware: Definitions

Malware (short for malicious software) is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer without your consent. Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, scareware and more. It can be present on websites and emails, or hidden in downloadable files, photos, videos, freeware or shareware. (However, it should be noted that most websites, shareware or freeware applications do not come with malware.) The best way to avoid getting infected is to run a good anti-virus protection program, do periodic scans for spyware, avoid clicking on suspicous email links or websites. But scammers are sneaky: sometimes malware is cleverly disguised as an email from a  friend, or a useful website. Even the most cautious of web-surfers will likely pick up an infection at some point. If you do, there are plenty of FREE TOOLS available to help you remove it. We list several below. (Learn more about malware here.)

Virus: Malware programs that can reproduce itself and infect other computers.

Spyware: It surreptitiously monitors and collects information about you, your computer and/or your browsing habits without your consent — usually for advertising purposes. It can also gather info from your address book, and even your passwords and credit card numbers. Unlike viruses and worms, spyware does not usually self-replicate.

Scareware: You’re surfing the net and suddenly an official-looking screen pops up warning you there is a problem on your computer, such as: ‘Your computer may be infected with harmful spyware programs. Immediate removal is required. To scan, click ‘Yes”. You’re not sure if it’s real or not, so what do you do? Be careful, this might be scareware. If there’s any doubt, you can close your browser immediately by pressing ALT+F4 (Mac users: press Command/Apple+Q) This will prevent any scareware from loading. (Learn more here.)

Free protection and antivirus software

The following software runs continuously in the background, helping to protect your computer from infection:

Microsoft Security Essentials

Provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Link to free PC download.

Avast! Antivirus Home Edition

A free antivirus software with anti-spyware, anti-rootkit and strong self-protection included. Link to free PC download. Link to free Mac download.



Anti-Virus software from Grisoft that automatically protects computers from viruses by providing timely virus database updates and protection. Link to free PC download. Link to free Mac download.

Advanced tip: How to stay safe on the internet


Create a secure partition on your computer for safer web browsing with this free program. This is a great tool for more advanced users.

Free spyware and scareware removal tools

If you’re already infected, you can still fix it! The following software scans your system for malware, destroying any infections it may find. Install and run these routinely (at least once a week).


A highly regarded and effective program that identifies and removes malware and scareware from your computer. Link to free PC or Mac download.


A free malware remover that also works on rootkits, spyware, adware, worms and parasites. Link to free PC download.



Scans your RAM, Registry, hard drives and external storage devices for known data mining, advertising and tracking components. Ad-Aware can easily rid your system of these tracking components, allowing you to maintain a higher degree of privacy while you surf the web. Link to free PC download.

Mobile security

First, always make sure you install the latest software updates from your operating system. These often include security and protection updates to help protect your device.

If you’re looking for mobile security software to better protect your devices, try a freemium service called MyLookout that offers protections for mobile devices running on Android or iOS.

More online resources

If the above tools don’t resolve the problem, you can get individual help from a great FREE tech support website,  Be sure to read and carefully follow their Read This Before Posting For Malware Removal Help ‘sticky’ thread before posting.

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