We have all heard horror stories about the damage a computer virus can do to your computer and many of those stories are true.
The good news is that you can protect your computer with a little thought and preparation.
The first thing to be aware of is that there are people out there that rejoice at the idea of causing as much trouble, inconvenience and damage as possible. Which means that you need a good anti virus program. There are the big names that you pay for initially and think you have the best and they do come pre installed on new machines. I have noticed that many people didn’t realize that they only got free updates for a limited time. After that you were only protected up to the time the software expired and any new virus that came out after that date was a threat. You could subscribe to the updates and pay the fee of course and stay protected.
There are other programs out there. The one I like and use myself is AVG AntiVirus. The software has a free version for personal use and one you pay for. The free one has worked very well for me and I update it almost daily and even though I haven’t purchased a copy I would feel comfortable with it if I did.
The next thing is understanding how a virus is spread! The most common is via an email attachment: Be aware of what you are opening! If the email comes from someone you don’t know it’s a potential threat! Even if you know the sender be careful, a virus will send itself out from an infected machine to addresses in the address book on that machine and it may fake a from email address the same way. Many times when a virus is sending itself out it will put something in the subject field that won’t be the way the person in the from field would express themselves, if you know them you should catch that. Bottom line is that I delete more emails than I read because I’d rather be safe than sorry. When I do open an attachment I save it to disk first, AVG scans it when you save it so I know it’s virus free.
Another common way for a virus or spy ware to spread is by piggybacking on other software that you download. If you just can’t resist the latest toolbar, file-sharing gizmo, coupon dispenser or email enhancer, you may be at risk. Often these and other downloads come with malware, free of charge. Running a good anti-spy ware program will reduce your risk.
Next would be when you are on a website and a window pops up telling you to install and run something. Unless you are at a site like Microsoft doing updates or something similar the best advice is to click NO. I have personally been caught like that myself so I KNOW it happens and believe me it can be a mess.
Next would be sharing your drive on a network. If you don’t have to DON’T. The reason being that you can never speak for someone else and you don’t know if they practice safe computing or not.
Finally there is all that removable media, floppy disks, cd’s, usb hard drives etc. Any file on any one of them could be infected. Keeping your Anti virus software enabled and updated should protect you but YOU make the difference.
One other thing that can help protect you is to do an online scan. The problem there is it takes some time especially on a dial up connection. The one I like the best is at Trend Micro.