It is back to school time, or as many college students know of it, back to debt time. One of the many mounting costs associated with higher education is the price of textbooks. However, thanks to the internet, there many websites offering free and cheap digital versions of the real thing. Because of that, students should beware of malware hidden in eBooks.

As with other websites that offer premium content like first-run movies and new video games for little to no cost, there is a hidden threat: viruses and malware tucked inside the file. In some cases, you do not even get to download the content before the virus from the malware hidden in the eBook attacks your computer.

This used to be a simple issue: you steal some content, you take the risk. With more and more schools helping students cut costs by promoting the real digital versions of the required textbooks, you could accidentally infect your computer or the network with malware hidden in eBooks while trying to do the right thing.

In order to avoid malware hidden in eBooks, there are some important steps you can take.

Do not give in to the temptation to save a lot of money

The price of textbooks is a burden, but there are steps you can take to offset, reduce or avoid the cost that do not put you at risk. Some libraries keep copies of popular textbooks, and there are retailers who now offer textbook rentals for a fraction of the cost. You can even split the cost with a friend and share the book. With that said, trying to get it for free online is a recipe for a virus from malware hidden in an eBook, and that can end up costing you almost as much as the book would have cost.

If you are going digital, know the source

Digital textbooks are great. They are portable, often cheaper and can even include extras like additional resources and homework help. Make sure you are getting it from a trusted retailer or website and not a site that promises free or cheap eBooks.

This can also affect supplemental materials

There is nothing wrong with searching online for additional materials to help you study unless it is pirated content. However, this same threat can hide embedded in other kinds of course materials, too. Even if you are not stealing anything, downloading free study materials or essays could be a great way to spread some malware hidden in eBooks.

Keep your security software updated

Even if you would never download pirated content, that does not mean someone else on the network won’t. Your roommate, a student down the hall or someone in the campus computer lab. If you are all connected to the same network, you stand a chance of “catching” someone else’s infection. Keep your antivirus and antimalware software installed and up-to-date and remember to run a scan regularly to avoid malware hidden in eBooks.

If you are infected…

Remember that the goal of a lot of malware is to steal data from your device or lock the device until you pay the ransom. Change your passwords on important accounts regularly to avoid having your account access stolen and back up your important files to a cloud storage or external hard drive. That way, if you are infected with ransomware, your important documents are still accessible.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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