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Malware and Phishing

Information to help you protect your home computer.


PSU Lion dressed in aromor holding a key and a lock

Virus Scanning Software for Home PC's

Free Symantec Anti-Virus Software


Symantec's EndPoint Protection is now available to all Penn State Students, Faculty, and Staff FREE OF CHARGE. 

Download Symantec EndPoint Protection now using your AccessID: 

Penn State's Virus and Spyware/Adware Recommendations

Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool

Remember to update your anti-virus definitions regularly (at least once per week)!



Adware and Spyware

Do you get a lot of popups no matter what sites you visit?
Has your PC slowed to a crawl even though it's new?

You might have adware or spyware.  These programs can get on your PC, sometimes without you realizing it, causing a number of problems.

Here are some tools you can use to remove them:
Lavasoft Ad-Aware:  http://www.lavasoftusa.com/
Spybot Search and Destroy:  http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html
Webroot Spy Sweeper:  http://www.webroot.com/
HijackThis:  http://www.spychecker.com/program/hijackthis.html  (This one is for more advanced users.  Be careful what you let it remove.)
Microsoft Security Essentials:  http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/default.aspx

For these programs, you will need to update the definitions before you run the scan, in order to recognize the latest threats.  Each program will walk you through downloading these updates over the internet.  After updating the program, run the scan.  (Note:  HijackThis is the exception; it does not require updating.)

For best results, you may need to run the scan in Safe Mode.  To start your PC in Safe Mode, follow these instructions from Microsoft http://support.microsoft.com/kb/315222:

To access safe mode:
Remove all floppy disks and CDs from your computer, and restart your computer.
Press F8 when prompted.
If Windows XP Professional starts without displaying the menu, restart your computer. Press F8 after the firmware POST process completes but before Windows XP Professional displays graphical output.

On the Windows Advanced Options menu, select Safe Mode.

For more information about Spyware and Adware, see Penn State's "Be Safe" page:

Penn State's SOS

Security Fixes

You can eliminate the potential harmful effects of many viruses and worms by keeping your system patched with the latest service packs and security fixes.  For Windows machines, visit Windows Update by selecting Start, All Programs, Windows Update.  For more informatino, visit Microsoft's Security home page.

Simple Guide to Protecting Your PC at Home

Home Computer & Network Security Guides
Provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the CERT® Coordination Center

Penn State Virus Information


How to Reduce Spam by Using Filters



Other Virus Information Sources

CERT - http://www.cert.org/cert/information/sysadmin.html
Symantec  - http://www.symantec.com/security_response/index.jsp
F-Secure - http://www.f-secure.com/en_EMEA-Labs/
McAfee - http://www.mcafee.com/us/threat_center/default.asp
Microsoft Malware Protection Center - http://www.microsoft.com/security/portal/ 

Virus Hoaxes



Unfortunately, spam can't be eliminated.  However, it can be managed.  Most email clients have spam-filtering tools built-in.  These tools move suspected spam messages into a Junk Mail folder, making them easier to identify. 

To help control spam with your email client (other than WebMail), see these web pages:
With WebMail, this spam filtering is already enabled.

While these spam filtering tools can help, they are not perfect.  You should monitor your junk mail folder for legitimate messages mistakenly marked as spam, and adjust the junk mail settings accordingly.

Do not click on any links in spam email, even "opt-out links."  Oftentimes the opt-out option is just the spammers’ way of telling that you are alive and reading email.  So they just send you more.  

Guidance is provided to users on how to report spam for those spam messages that originate outside Penn State. For tips about how to minimize the spam you receive, how to report spam to the originating Internet Service Provider yourself, and links to other spam related resources please visit this Penn State ITS web site:


Many Penn State users have also found establishing filters on their e-mail clients to be a very effective spam reduction measure. Most individual users and departments are now using the latest versions of either Microsoft Outlook or Eudora, both with built-in spam filtering.

Users of Penn State WebMail have also found filtering via the spam scoring system to work well.

For assistance in optimizing the spam filtering of Microsoft Outlook, Eudora, or WebMail please consult one of the ITS Helpdesks:


(814) 863-1035 - 2 Willard Building

(814) 863-2494 - 215 Computer Building

Toll-free 1-888-778-4010 within PA



What is a Phishing Scam?

Phishing scams are one of the most popular and thus dangerous forms of e-mail fraud circulating today. The goal of these scams is to steal your valuable personal data, such as your credit card number, password, account data, and other information.

Penn State’s ITS has produced this short video that will help explain:

Phishing Scams Video:


Some phishing scams are designed to directly target Penn State students, faculty and staff. This type of e-mail is especially deceptive, because it will appear to come from an official University office (such as Account Services, or Web Mail services, or Penn State ITS Help Desk) and invites the reader to click on a link or share private information.

There are many examples of such scams circulating at Penn State.  The scams typically ask you to send personal information via email, including your password.  Please remember, legitimate sources will never ask for your personal information such as a password via email.

Some example Subjects:
Verify Your Email
PSU Account Web Maintenance
Confirm Your Account Details
Attn: Penn State Webmail User
Something equally menacing.

Anyone who receives these types of e-mails should delete them, and should not respond to them.  Please remember, legitimate sources will never ask for your personal information such as a password via email.

Please use caution when responding to all forms of e-mail.

What is a phishing scam?

A phishing scam is an attempt to trick you into clicking a link, visiting a malicious web site, or revealing personal information such as SSN number, credit card info, or other personal information.  Often the web sites they lead you to will attempt to install spyware/adware.  Much of the email we think of as spam could be classified as phishing scams.  Often these are disguised to look like legitimate emails from legitimate companies or organizations. 

In general, when in doubt, DON'T CLICK.  Instead, open a browser and TYPE the address of the legitimate company's web site (www.ebay.com, www.PayPal.com, your bank, etc).

Some newer web browsers (like IE8 and Firefox 3.6.12) have built-in tools or add-ons to help protect against phishing scams.  However, none are perfect, so you still need to use your best judgment.

You are likely to get many of these types of messages in your email.  It is an unfortunate fact of email these days.

More info about these kinds of things – including ways to filter spam - can be found at our IT Department web site:
Click on “ViruMalware and Phishing”

Info about phishing scams can be found here:


ITS has produced three short videos to help provide you information and assist you in protecting your on-line activities

Protecting Your Online Accounts:


Phishing Scams:





Remember to update your anti-virus definitions regularly (at least once per week)!