How do you get a cold? You get exposed to a germ, right? This may be a very simplified explanation of getting a cold, but the basic principle is the same when it comes to malicious software. We all know what malware software is, it is a program that does unwanted and in many cases destructive things on your computer. Typical examples of malicious software are viruses, spyware, and ad-ware. You have to expose your computer to a malicious program to get infected by it. This can happen in many ways, by using an infected Floppy Disk, CD, DVD, hard-drive or flash drive. You may get infected when opening an attachment of an infected e-mail message. But if you use common sense you have a smaller chance of getting infected. Only use disks from trusted sources, do not open strange e-mails and even if you use material from a trusted source, ensure that it is scanned by a respectable Anti-virus scanner.
There is one method of infection I did not mention and that is through the use Internet by browsing from web site to web site. Common sense also plays a role here. If a link looks strange, do not click on it. If you are required to enter sensitive information that is not relevant to your visit, do not do it. By using a browser with good security measures will make you less vulnerable. But one problem that can not be fixed with security software is people's moral values. Ignorance plays a significant role in infections but I do not believe that it plays such a big role as people's intentions when using the Internet.
Many infections occur when the user was either doing something illegal or immoral. The evidence is clear when you try to fix an infected PC. The Internet History and the Temporary Internet Files folder is most of the times cluttered with cookies and cache of pornographic and piracy sites. Piracy sites range from pirate music to pirate software. Many of the cracks downloaded from the Internet are actual Trojan Horses (a host program that gives malicious software access to your computer) but they usually implicate to bypass the anti-piracy sections of a program to allow the user to use a full licensed version of the software. Sometimes they even do actually crack the software but installs a malicious program in the background without the knowledge of the user. Some sites require users to install specific software in order to gain access to their pirate or pornographic content. These programs are nothing other than spyware, which monitors activities like keystrokes from your keyboard to record passwords. They also spy on your online activity and store this information on their servers in order to send you relevant marketing material and spin you deeper into their web. What users often do not realize is that their PC becomes a source of malicious activity. Many of these companies will load your computer with malicious software and try to infect everyone you communicate with, either through your local network or the Internet. Your PC may become a spamming engine, sending spam to all your contacts. Your PC will in the end earn revenue for these dishonest organizations and you may become an accomplice in illegal activities without even knowing it.
All these are consequences of the immoral and dishonest actions of the user in the first place. If people stay away from piracy and pornography sites we will deal with less malicious software threats. If less people use these websites, these organizations will make less money from these sites and will in the end be forced to shut it down. This will be to the benefit to the whole online-community, but also the music, television and software industry, due to smaller volumes of piracy. In the end it will put money back into the pocket of the end-user and keep our children safe from the filthy material on the Web.
It is a simple rule, if you keep your online intentions clean, your will have a clean conscience and a clean conscience will go hand-in-hand with a clean computer.