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14 Household Ways To Protect Your Computer From Viruses

Computer viruses are deadly. They often spread without any apparent contact and can be a nuisance, or even worse, fatal to your computer. Individuals who create these viruses, estimated at 10-15 new ones a day, are the electronic version of terrorists. Their goal is to inflict havoc and destruction on as many people as possible by disabling, stealing, damaging, or destroying computer and information resources. Often, they have no specific target in mind, so no one is safe. If you access the internet, share files or your computer with others, or load anything from diskettes, CDs, or DVDs onto your computer, you are vulnerable to viruses.

Fortunately, there are good guys working just as hard as the hackers to develop cures for viruses as quickly as they send them off into cyberspace. And there are many things you can do to keep your computer from catching viruses in the first place. Defining Viruses: A virus is a small computer program that can copy and spread itself from one computer to another, with or without the help of the user. However, viruses typically do more than just be fruitful and multiply, which is bad enough in itself because it hogs system resources. Anything else viruses are programmed to do, from displaying annoying messages to destroying files, is called their payload.

Often, they cannot deliver their payload until an unsuspecting user does something to make the virus execute its programmed function. This could be as simple as clicking on an innocent looking file attachment with the .exe (executable) extension. Catching a Virus: Most viruses are spread through e-mail attachments because it's the easiest way to do it. Although Macintosh, Unix, and Linux systems can catch viruses, hackers are particularly keen on exploiting the security weaknesses in anything Microsoft, particularly Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express. Because of the popularity of this software, hackers get maximum bang for their buck, and they probably get some satisfaction from continually reminding Microsoft that being big doesn't mean you're perfect. Solution 1: Anti-virus Software Your first line of defense is to install anti-virus software. To be extra safe, also install firewall software, which is now included in some anti-virus packages. This software can scan all of your drives for viruses and neutralize them. Here are some features to consider when evaluating anti-virus software.

- Compatibility with your operating system - Make sure the software works with your system, particularly if you are using an older operating system like Windows 98. - Firewall software - If it's not included, find out if it's available. If you must, buy it from another vendor. - Automatic background protection - This means your software will constantly scan behind the scenes for infections and neutralize them as they appear. This provides some peace of mind. - Automatic, frequent updates - Because new viruses appear every day, you'll want regular updates. It's even better if they occur automatically when you connect to the internet. If automatic updating isn't included, you'll have to check the vendor's website and download updates yourself. This is vitally important, because you will not be protected from new viruses if your software is out of date. - Disaster recovery - Software with a recovery utility to help you get your system back to normal after a virus attack is always good to have.

- ICSA certification - The International Computer Security Associatioin has standards for the detection rates of anti-virus software. Make sure your software has the ICSA certification. - Technical support - It's a good idea to select a package that offers free technical support, either online or through a toll-free number. If you're ever felled by a virus, you may need it. Some anti-virus software vendors are Symantec Corporation (Norton AntiVirus), McAfee Corporation (McAfee VirusScan), Trend Micro Inc. (PC-cillin), and Zone Labs Inc. (Zone Alarm Suite). Solution 2: The Virus Scan If you receive a particularly juicy attachment that you're dying to open, save it on your Windows desktop and run your anti-virus software on it first. To do this, click once gently on the file on your desktop . don't actually open it .

then right click and choose Scan with (Name of Anti-Virus Software) to activate a virus scan. If it's infected, your anti-virus software may neutralize it, or at least tell you the attachment is too dangerous to open. On the other hand, don't feel guilty if the very thought of saving a potentially damaging file anywhere on your system is enough to quell your eagerness to open it and make you delete it immediately. Solution 3: Delete first, ask questions later. When in doubt about the origin of an e-mail, the best thing to do is delete it without previewing or opening it. However, some viruses, such as Klez, propagate by fishing in people's address books and sending themselves from any contact they find to another random contact. You can spread a virus just by having people in your address book, even if you don't actually e-mail them anything. They'll receive it from someone else in your address book, which really makes life confusing. Because of the proliferation of porn on the internet, e-mail viruses often tempt victims by using sexual filenames, such as nudes.


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