Harmful Email and Software | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh
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Harmful Email and Software

Harmful Email

Every day you receive email messages with attached documents, photos, or other electronic files.

Sometimes these attachments contain destructive viruses, Trojan horses, or spyware, sent intentionally by someone who intends to cause harm or steal sensitive personal information.

Harmful Software (Malware)

Malware is a shortened term for "malicious software." Malware is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer without the owner's consent or knowledge.

There are many types of malware, including:

  • Viruses: malware that spreads from computer disks, CD-ROMs, and other storage media.
  • Worms: malware that spreads through network connections.
  • Rootkits: tools used by hackers that are hidden on a computer and used to maintain remote access and control of the computer.
  • Trojan horses: malware disguised as a normal computer file or program, such as an image, music file, spreadsheet or word document. When a user opens the file, the malware is launched and infects the computer.
  • Botnet: malware that uses a computer for inappropriate purposes (turning the compromised computer into a "zombie computer"), including sending out spam emails and launching denial of service attacks against other computers.
  • Spyware: malware used to capture user IDs, passwords, and other sensitive information typed from your keyboard.

Protect yourself from harmful email attachments by taking the following steps:

Hackers

Hackers take advantage of vulnerabilities present in computer software and operating systems in order to use computers for illegal purposes, to vandalize systems, or to gain access to resources that they are not authorized to access.

The best defense against hackers is to:

  • Ensure that your workstations and servers are behind an Enterprise Network Firewall.
  • Keep software and operating systems up-to-date with the most current security patches.
  • Use strong passwords that can't be easily guessed.
  • Never share your computer user ID or your password.
  • Use security tools that can detect or block hacker utilities.

If you believe your computer may have been compromised by a hacker, contact the 24/7 Help Desk at 412 624-HELP (4357) for assistance.

Harmful Email and Software | Information Technology

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