UNLV logo

Viruses and Malware

Malware is software designed to gain access to your computer. It exists in many forms, including viruses that damage and delete your files and spyware that records your activity to send back to the programmer. There’s even ransomware that blocks your computer screen, locks your files, and otherwise prevents you from using your computer until you pay money to recover your system - if you’re lucky.

Programmers continue to find new ways to infect your computer, making knowing what to look for and ensuring your computer is protected against attack extremely important.

Best Practices

  • Install antivirus software and make sure it is enabled and up to date. 
  • Keep all software up to date
  • Think before you click. Malicious emails or links often come from people you don’t know, but can also come from people you do.
  • Only download software from legitimate sources
  • Don’t click on links in pop up banners
  • Check permissions to see what information an app may collect about you

Be Precautious

Viruses are designed to go unnoticed and spread quickly. Knowing what to look for, and being precautious about what you click on, will help protect you from getting a virus. 

You can get viruses from:

  • Clicking links on banner ads and pop-up messages, in emails, on social media, chat apps, text messages, etc.
  • Downloading files through peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing applications or websites
  • Opening email attachments
  • Attaching personal storage devices (like USB sticks or cell phones) to an infected computer, especially public computers
  • Apps for your mobile devices

What to look for:
Often, there are signs that an email or website shouldn’t be trusted. Look for:

  • Short messages that give little context as to why someone is contacting you or what they are sending to you (e.g., "Check out these new pics!") 
  • Unusual URLs and domain names (e.g., "unlv.university.com" instead of "unlv.edu.")
  • Unexpected attachments, or attachments with unusual file types, especially attachments that end in .exe, .vbs, or .lnk on a computer running Microsoft Windows
  • Strange notifications that don’t look like the normal messages you see from the app or program 
  • Apps that require excessive access to your device. For example, a flashlight application should not need access to your camera and text messages

When in doubt, never click or open something you think is unusual. If you aren’t sure if something is a real message, contact the person by some other method, since some malware will automatically respond with legitimate-sounding replies.

Use Good Defenses

The best attacks will look just like legitimate messages, and even the most savvy users can still become victims. Keep your computer, antivirus, and computer applications up to date to make sure you’re protected from malware. UNLV employees and students get free antivirus software for using on their personal computers.

If you are using a Windows computer managed by OIT, Windows updates will automatically be installed for you. You will still need to install updates when prompted by other applications you use.

Signs of malware infections

In general, unusual graphics, alerts, or computer behavior might indicate a virus or malware has taken over your computer.

Specific symptoms of malware infections include: system crashes, slowness, longer-than-normal program startup, unpredictable program behavior (such as being taken to webpages you didn’t want to go to or finding new search bars or toolbars in your browser), finding new software you don’t remember installing, excessive hard drive activity, unusual graphics or dialog boxes appearing unexpectedly, unusual sounds, unexpected antivirus disabling, and more.

If you think your computer may be infected:

For UNLV-barcoded computers:

  • Disconnect the computer from the Internet by disabling Wi-Fi or disconnecting the network cable
  • Contact the IT Help Desk. Students living in the dorms can contact the ResLife Help Desk

For your personal or home computer: 

  • Disconnect the computer from the Internet by disabling Wi-Fi or disconnecting the network cable 
  • Run a full computer scan with an up-to-date antivirus program
  • Remove anything caught by the antivirus and re-scan
  • Consider contacting a computer repair store if the problem persists

Related policies: