How to Protect against Malware

Malware is a permanent threat to the security of data and systems and can spread through a variety of ways. The most important protection measures against malware are the use of an antivirus program and the immediate installation of security updates for applications and the operating system. Unfortunately, technical measures alone are not enough, as new variants of malware are constantly being developed and spread, which may not be detected by antivirus programs in the beginning. Therefore, the attention of all users is important.

As in most cases malware is spread via e-mails or websites, it is important to protect yourself from scam e-mails as well as scam websites. In particular, the following points should be observed:

  • Never open or run unknown files or programs, especially from e-mail attachments or downloads from websites!
  • Do not activate macros in unknown Office documents!
  • Never connect unknown devices to the computer via USB (e.g. USB sticks)!
  • Do not run any commands in a prompt/command field that you do not understand!

To be prepared for the case of an emergency and to prevent the loss of data, you should regularly make backups.

  • Browser Add-Ons

    Add-ons are small programs that can extend the functionality of a browser. Thus, the browser can be customized according to personal needs and missing functions can be added, such as advertisement blockers, password managers or media tools. Installing add-ons can protect against scam websites, advertising and tracking. Here you can find instructions on how to install them.  

    Recommendations for browser add-ons:

    But be careful: Browser add-ons can also be harmful and may steal information about all visited websites and entered information! Therefore, be extra careful when installing them, use only the official sources and pay attention to the legitimacy of the add-ons.

    Supposedly useful add-ons can also collect and analyze personal data. When software changes ownership, goals and implementations can change negatively. The following add-ons are among those that should no longer be used:

    •     Web of Trust (WOT)
    •     uBlock
    •     Adblock Plus
    •     Ghostery
  • Recommendation - Deactivate Macros

    Macros are small programs that can perform commands and automate tasks in documents, e.g. Word, Excel or PDF documents. Macros can be misused and hidden in documents to run malware. These infected files are often sent as e-mail attachments. As soon as you activate the macros in the document (see yellow bar in the figure), the malware can infect the computer.

    Recommendation - Deactivate Macros
    © Universität Münster

    The IVVs have disabled macros on the machines they operate to prevent automatic loading of macros. If you want or need to use macros, make sure that the document is from a reliable source before enabling macros manually.
    If the setting is not active on your computer, we recommend disabling macros:
    Open Word/Excel --> "File" --> "Options" --> "Trust Center" --> "Trust Center Settings" --> "Macro Settings" --> "Disable macros with or without notification".

    © Universität Münster
  • Other general Tips

    Before installing any new software on your computer, always check the source of the software. Only install programs and apps from legitimate providers, e.g. the official manufacturer's website.

    Further information on this topic can also be found at the BSI.