Malicious software (malware) comes in many forms including viruses, worms, Trojans, and spyware. Malware can cause computers and networks to become overloaded, work improperly, or fail to work at all. Malware can also corrupt or destroy any or all of the information stored on an infected computer. Much of the malware produced today, however, is designed either to send unsolicited commercial email ("spam") to millions of people, or to steal individuals' confidential and personally identifiable information (names, addresses, passwords, financial and medical information, etc.) so that it can be used to create fake identities (identity theft).
Modern malware is distributed through email and web browsers, making it very difficult to avoid. An unprotected computer can be infected with malware in less than 20 minutes after connecting it to the Internet for the first time. Even when protected by a firewall, a computer with no antivirus/malware protection software installed will be infected after just a few hours of casual web browsing. Although Apple's Mac OS X is more resistant than Microsoft Windows to some types of malware, there are several malware attacks to which it is vulnerable, and more are being released all the time. The "conventional wisdom" that Macs don't need to have antivirus software installed is no longer correct.
If your new computer came with antivirus software pre-installed, it was most likely just a trial version. Unless you've visited the software manufacturer's web site to purchase a full subscription, chances are that it's no longer downloading updates (or will soon stop doing so), leaving your computer and data at risk.
Obtaining Antivirus/Malware Protection Software
If you already have an up-to-date antivirus/malware protection product installed, there is no need to replace it. If you don't already have an up-to-date product installed, The New School offers the latest version of Symantec Endpoint Protection for PCs and Macs as a free download, and recommends its use. However, if you prefer not to use this product, there are several other alternatives, some of which are listed below.
Windows Free Versions
Windows Commercial Versions
Mac Free Versions
Mac Commercial Versions
Note: The list above is provided for your convenience only; The New School does not endorse or provide support for any of the products listed.
Configuring Antivirus/Malware Protection Software
The New School recommends that antivirus/malware protection software be configured as follows:
- The software should be configured to scan all of the following:
- file system boor sector(s)
- computer memory
- all system hard disks
- electronic mail attachments (when opened or saved)
- downloaded files (e.g., FTP, HTTP, etc.).
- The software should be configured to:
- be active at all times
- scan files commonly targeted by malware
- scan files when opened or executed.
- The software should be configured to, upon detection of malware
- remove the malware from the system (e.g., by "disinfecting" the affected files or resetting affected system settings)
- if the malware cannot be removed, quarantine the infected file(s).
- The software should be configured to, at least once a day, automatically contact the vendor update server to verify that its signature files and scanning engine are up-to-date and install updates if necessary.
The New School recommends that all computers, whether they are owned by the university or by individual faculty, staff, or students, be protected against malicious software at all times by installing a reputable antivirus/malware protection product (commercial, free, or open source).
The New School also requires that certain computers be protected:
- All university computer systems (computer systems owned or operated by the university, or by a third party service provider on the university's behalf)
- Any non-university system (a computer system owned or operated by a faculty member, staff member, student, contractor, consultant, guest, or volunteer) that is used to process or store Restricted or Confidential university information.
The Office of Information Technology is responsible for ensuring that all university-owned computers have antivirus/malware protection software installed and that the software is kept up-to-date. The New School Information Resource Acceptable Use Policy prohibits any attempt to disable, reconfigure, or uninstall this software.
Individual faculty, staff, and students are responsible for ensuring that their personally-owned computers have antivirus/malware protection software installed and that the software is kept up-to-date.