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Drive-By Downloads

YouEUR(TM)re surfing the Web, enjoying a quiet afternoon, when a window pops up on the screen.  EURoeNew Windows Antivirus Update Available,EUR it says.  EURoeWould you like to update your system?EUR  You get EURoeYesEUR and EURoeCancelEUR buttons at the bottom.
It looks like a real, honest-to-goodness Windows message, right down to the logo in the corner.  Should you click Yes, or Cancel?
The correct answer is EURoeNeither.EUR
In programming terms, this is known as a Drive By Download.  A website you visited has this code set to run as soon as you visit.  The pop-up is trying to install something on your computer, and if you click EURoeYes,EUR you really have no idea what youEUR(TM)re agreeing to.  Your computer may now be set to make long distance phone calls, or assist in a Denial of Service attack, or just flash adult advertisements at you every thirty seconds.
Many malware programmers design their systems to look just like system messages and windows.  Just because an email or a pop-up says it comes from Microsoft, or your bank, for that matter, doesnEUR(TM)t make it true.
We donEUR(TM)t want any of that, so we should hit EURoeCancel,EUR right?
Nope.
It may look like a standard Windows message, but itEUR(TM)s really not.  ItEUR(TM)s just an image of those buttons.  Clicking either buttonEUR"in fact, clicking anywhere in the imageEUR"is the same as clicking EURoeYesEUR and giving the mystery program blanket permission to do whatever itEUR(TM)s going to do.
The correct answer is to click on the little EURoeXEUR at the top right of the window, closing it without clicking on anything inside it.  This is one of the best ways of keeping malware off of your system.
When in doubt, donEUR(TM)t click.  This advice works for ads, email attachments, and mystery files, and is a really good habit to get into.
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