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by Ray Carlson

Q. What is a "drive-by-download?"

A. That phrase has been used to describe having a program downloaded to your computer without your knowledge or intent. A website appears normal but hidden under one of the images or sections is a computer program that is downloaded to your computer when you click on or rub over that spot. Or a window pops up suggesting you need a new version of Active X or some other program that will allow you to see or use some of the special content on the page. Clicking to allow that program to be installed can add malware. Very often a hacker will use security weaknesses to insert these programs into otherwise valid and reputable websites making it hard to recognize when you are at risk.

The obvious question is what to do to avoid this problem. The good news is that the antivirus companies are doing their own research on the nature of these programs and the websites that have been infected. Many have added programs that warn you when you start to visit a site with a bad reputation or that include software that fits the pattern for such a download. Daily updates of your anti-virus software increases the chance it will recognize such questionable web-pages but also be able to get rid of the malicious software if you do accidentally download it. Also get the latest version of web browsers, since they are adding special protections to obstruct such unintentional downloading of files.

Published: Courier 5/16/10 - Page 5C