If you are a Windows user, you should be concerned about you computer catching a virus, and I don’t mean the flu. I am talking about those nasty programs that clog your system down to a crawl, that pop up window after window non-stop, or even worse, that uses your computer as a spamming machine to the rest of the Internet. So what can you do to protect yourself from these ugly critters?
My Apple Fanboy friend would say, “Just get a MAC and you don’t have to worry about viruses.” In part, he is correct to a certain extent. However, most users own PCs and have Windows operating systems.
Nowadays the definition is blurry between a virus, malware and spyware program. The makers of anti-virus software have their work cutout when trying to protect you. The bad programs have gotten nastier, harder to remove and cause havoc once you get them. So I will mention some general things you can do to help protect yourself.
Useful advice not to get viruses in the first place
For many people the main reason to use a computer is to get things done. They have no desire to know how a computer works or how to fix it. So they use the computer, the Internet and email to accomplish specific tasks. If you fall into this category, please listen to the following tips to avoid the dreaded malicious viruses. These points mainly involve changing one’s behavior:
- EMAIL: Never open an attachment (pictures, documents, spreadsheets, files, etc) that you weren’t expecting. Even if it comes from a friend or someone you know. It’s always best to ask the sender if they did intent to send you something.
- EMAIL: Never click on a link in email. Again the same concept applies as with attachments, if you’re not expecting it, then question why you got it. This is a favorite way for Phishing scams to collect your personal data.
- WEBSITES: Be careful of the websites you visit. Those that offer FREE downloads are especially suspect. You know you’ve been to them. The sites that offer free desktop backgrounds, free screensavers, free clipart, free software, and free mp3s. Now, I am not saying that ALL these sites are malicious, just be careful. It is better to stick to well known websites.
- PROGRAMS: Again be very careful when installing programs you have downloaded from the internet. Make sure they come from a reputable source.
- ROUTER/FIREWALL: At home, make sure you have a router between your computer and the Internet. Most new routers are firewalls that will prevent unsolicited traffic from getting to your computer. These pieces of hardware are very inexpensive and will hugely increase your protection. Even if you only have one computer, make sure you get a router. At work, hopefully your IT Department knows what they’re doing and has all the computers behind firewalls.
Software to help bolster your defense
I know the natural tendency is to click on those cool little links that you’re friend sent you. You may find it hard to resist opening an attachment that promises is the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen before.
So for you folks, I offer some picks on Anti-Virus software that will help you in your quest to remain virus free.
I personally use AVAST. They have a free version for home use. This piece of software is lightweight and does the job. It updates everyday with new virus definitions to keep you current. I would recommend you try it. Another free program that gets good reviews is AVG Antivirus. I have never tried this one, but it comes highly recommended from experts in the field. There are a few good paid applications such as NOD32 and Kaspersky Anti-Virus that get high marks from reviewers as well.
There are many others, especially the Big Two, McAfee and Norton. I used Norton in the past but it is bloated and you have to keep paying every year to keep the program updated. My recommendations are save your money and get yourself one of the two free ones I mentioned.
As for Malware/Spyware protection I would recommend Spybot – Search and Destroy. In this category there are many programs that will help you eliminate the nasties. Take a look at Malware.org for helpful resources.
If you’re infected, just bite the bullet!
Is you’re computer already compromised? No matter what programs you use to try to fix the problem, you can never be sure that everything bad has been removed. Your only safe way to know your system is truly safe is to reinstall the operating system. Use the discs that came with your computer to restore it. Doing so will put your computer back to the way it came from the factory. Don’t forget to back up your personal files (or you should already have them backed up).
After you restore your system, start practicing the safe habits described above.
Be safe in your Internet journeys…