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I'm one of today's best-selling computer book writers, with more than 15 million books in print.

This website keeps you up-to-date on my books, and your computers. Each week, I answer a reader's question on-line.

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The difference between “threats” and “threat agents”

Anthrax virus, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Q: I was scanning my laptop for potential threats, and the scan results stated there was a “threat agent” on my laptop. I know what a threat is, but what’s a threat agent. Is there a difference?

A: The word “threat” usually stands for a category of things that pose a potential danger. Viruses, worms, and other types of malware, for example, are threats. A “threat agent,” by contrast, is a specific threat, or a specific type of virus, worm, or other malware. For example, the Blaster Worm is a threat agent.

So, it sounds like your laptop has picked up something nasty, and should be disinfected. I like Microsoft’s free antivirus program.

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