How did this happen to me? A word about how to avoid malware.

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, many of the crimes committed online or via the internet start with malicious software known as “malware” – software, viruses and/or other programs that record or pass along your computer activity. Sneaky web links or deceptive registration screens are the typical means of installation. Most people who have malware on their computer are not aware they were the ones who installed it!

The people who write and distribute malware may simply want to cause you trouble by crashing your computer; usually they are trying to steal something of value and/or monitor and control your online activity. Dramatic reduction of your computer’s performance can be an indicator of malware infestation since your computer is now giving priority to the demands of the malicious software.

If you think your computer has malware, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, but your more effective tactic would be to install and scan a reputable malware scanner. By reputable, we mean one offered by a recognized and legitimate website, such as

Here are some tips to avoid malware:

  • Keep your computer and mobile device clean. Scrupulously avoid installing programs unless you must have them or you know they came from a reliable source.
  • Make your passwords “long and strong”. Consider getting a good password manager to help you create the password (if not store it) and use a different password for each online account.
  • Use a pop-up blocker. Most browsers include this feature, so be sure to configure it in your browser settings.
  • Train yourself and other family members to be security conscious. Avoid clicking on links in emails without first verifying it is from a trusted source.