Can Computer Viruses Steal Your Credit Card Information?
By James Wright
There are many types of viruses and malicious software that can harm your computer, collectively referred to as "malware." They are designed for different purposes, from spreading themselves amongst computers to hiding in the background to collect your data. Certain types of malware are even capable of stealing private information like passwords, credit card information and bank data.
Types of Malware
There are many types of malware that can infect your computer, but the types that can steal your data are simply called "information stealers." They are made up of things like keyloggers, screen recorders and memory scrapers. They perform a variety of tasks, from recording what keys you press to taking screenshots of your desktop at random intervals. This information is then sent to the malware's designer, showing them whatever you typed or viewed on your computer. Using this method, a hacker can steal any data from computer passwords to credit card numbers.
How You Can Get It
These types of malware are usually obtained as part of an EXE file. For example, if you download a program, the malware comes attached to it. They can also come in torrent folders, email attachments and anything else downloaded directly to your computer. This may sound bad, but malware generally cannot infect your computer unless it is physically installed or downloaded by a user.
Removing and Avoiding Malware
The vast majority of malware can be removed using an anti-virus and anti-spyware program. If you don't have any security software, you can download one of many free options, such as Avira, AVG Free or Avast. Perform a full system scan, then delete any traces of malware that your software finds. In the future, keep your security software running in the background at all times. Be cautious about what websites you visit, and be extra careful when downloading anything, even if it's from your own email inbox. When in doubt, it's safer not to download something unless you can verify that it is absolutely safe.
If you believe that your information has been compromised, you should immediately attempt to change your online accounts' login information and check your credit card reports to see if anyone has used your information. Even if everything appears safe, periodically change your passwords and other security information to ensure that even if someone does somehow obtain your old login data, it is no longer relevant. Perform a full system scan with your security software every month or so to make sure your system stays clean.
Based in California, James Wright has been writing since 1998. Wright's articles have been published on various websites with a focus on technical fields such as computers and the Internet, and were also featured in a now-retired publication for an online artistic community. Wright studied English, journalism, politics and psychology at Riverside Community College.