Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Once your machine is infected with malware, it isn't your machine any more: it belongs to the person who is controlling the malware... and they could be doing anything.

Leo, in regards to the topic, "Can my IP address be linked to an illegal site without my knowledge," I'm just wondering more about malware. If it's on my computer, does that mean that every program on my PC can be used by someone else like Frostwire?

In this excerpt from Answercast #35, I go through a few scenarios that malware could be used for on your computer. The most common use is to send spam.

Malware owns your machine

  • Your PC – if it has malware on it – could in fact be used to access any other site on the internet, legal or otherwise.

So, yes, in that sense. Your computer (if it has malware installed on it) could in fact be reaching out to sites that you don't think you want it to.

Will every program be used?

Now the question is: does that mean that every program on your PC can be used by someone else like Frostwire?

In a sense, yes. It's not common, but technically once you have malware on your machine – in a very real and practical sense – it's not your machine anymore.

Someone could be using it remotely. Somebody could be controlling it remotely. That means they could be accessing any of the data on your machine, and they could be using any of the software on your machine.

Spam is typical

Now, in reality, most of the malware does only a couple of things.

Typically, what malware does these days is sends spam. In other words, there will be a small spam-sending program on your computer. You'll become part of what's called a "botnet" and your machine will be used to send spam to other people on the internet.

However, if someone had a different malicious intent, then sure, they could make it look like your machine was downloading porn or mp3s, using all sorts of software that you don't even have; or software that you do have – that is now being used in an inappropriate way.

Avoid infection

So it's just another argument for making sure that your machine is never infected with malware.

  • Keep those anti-virus and anti-spyware programs up-to-date.

  • Keep the databases that they use up-to-date and

  • Follow best practices.

The article that I typically point people to for situations like this is "Internet Safety: Keeping your computer safe on the internet".

That has the basics:

  • The things that you need to follow.

  • The things you need to understand to make sure that your computer doesn't become infected with malware and doesn't start reaching out to sites that you don't think you want it to.

Article C5583 - July 14, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
GREG JACKSON
July 17, 2012 11:50 PM

Just a quick comment about a related story. I deleted a software program I downloaded, it was a little "hinky". This little booger kept trying to contact an outside source....from my recycle bin!
It was caught by Zone Alarm thankfully. Had this been Malware or something more nasty....well, you get the point. Deleting doesn't remove it, so make sure it's really gone.
End of a silly little story.

snaert
July 18, 2012 12:57 AM

Regarding the comment by Greg J.; that's one reason I use an in/out firewall. I get notices about who's phonng home and I can allow them, in the case of ligit updates.

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