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Virus Definitions & Tips

Viruses - A virus is a small piece of software that piggybacks on real programs. For example, a virus might attach itself to a program such as a spread sheet program. Each time the spread sheet program runs, the virus runs too and it has the chance to reproduce (by attaching to other programs) or wreak havoc.

E-mail viruses - An e-mail virus travels as an attachment to e-mail messages, and usually replicates itself by automatically mailing itself to dozens of people in the victim's e-mail address book. Some e-mail viruses don't even require a double-click -- they launch when you view the infected message in the preview pane of your e-mail software.

Trojan horses - A Trojan horse is simply a computer program. The program claims to do one thing (it may claim to be a game) but instead does damage when you run it (it may erase your hard disk). Trojan horses have no way to replicate automatically.

Worms - A worm is a small piece of software that uses computer networks and security holes to replicate itself. A copy of the worm scans the network for another machine that has a specific security hole. It copies itself to the new machine using the security hole, and then starts replicating from there, as well.


How to Protect Your Computer from Viruses

You can protect yourself against viruses with a few simple steps:

1. Install Anti-Virus Software - This should not even have to be listed, if you don’t have anti-virus software installed, you’re asking for trouble! And if your reason for not installing anti-virus software is because it’s too expensive, then that can reason can be shot down because there are several free anti-virus programs out there that are considered better than commercial software packages. Here are two of the most popular ones:

AVG Anti-Virus – Very good and completely (free).

Avast Anti-Virus – Almost on par with AVG (free).

Kaspersky Anti-Virus – Not free, but one of the best detection rates.

2. Update All Software - Installing an anti-virus program by itself is not enough. There are hundreds of new threats that are found daily and the anti-virus programs release updates regularly to combat the new threats. Make sure your anti-virus program is set to update automatically so that you don’t have to rely on your memory to do it. Also, this goes for all the software on your computer. The most important software to keep up to date is your Windows operating system. It is essential to have Automatic Updates turned on and set to download and install updates automatically.

3. Install only Trusted Software - If you’re not sure what a piece of software does from it’s name, then don’t install it. Also, don’t install anything you didn’t intend to install in the first place. Sometimes programs will ask you to install other programs during the install of the first application. Be careful of that because it’s usually spyware. Install software from big names sites only, such as Microsoft or Adobe.

4. Avoid P2P File Sharing Software – If used with great caution, P2P software is quite useful for movies, songs and software, but if you’re not very technically savvy, you might end up downloading a song that has a keystroke logger attached to it that will send anything you type to some other computer over the Internet. It’s almost impossible to tell that this is occurring unless your anti-virus or anti-spyware programs pick it up in their scans.

5. Delete Unknown Emails – If you receive emails from random people’s names, do not bother to open the email, just delete it. If you have any doubts after reading the name and the subject, it’s probably not someone you know. Never download or open attachments unless you are sure it’s from someone you know. Give the person a call quickly and ask them if you’re not sure. Most large companies that you create online accounts with will not send you attachments unless you specifically ask for them through their web site. Also, be wary of any emails from sites pretending to be banks, auction sites, etc. asking for you to verify bank account info or address info. No bank ever does that.

6. Do not click on Ads - Avoid clicking on ads if you can. Especially those ads where something is flying around and if you shoot the duck, you win some prize! Ads have become more sophisticated in that they try to make the ad interactive so that you’ll be tempted to play it like a game.

7. Run Virus Scans Regularly – If you’re not in the mood to scan every day, at least run a scan once a week. Actually, setup a schedule for your computer in your anti-virus software to run a scan late at night or whenever you don’t use your computer and that way you won’t be bothered with a slow computer.

8. Be careful what you attach to your computer – This is a more common way to transfer viruses than you might think. Everyone now has a USB flash stick that they carry around on their key chains, ready to snap into any computer. But who knows what viruses are on your friends computers and what accidentally got transferred to their USB stick. A lot of virus programs will auto launch right when the USB stick is put into the computer, so you don’t even have to open or download any of the files to be infected.

9. Avoid Shady Web Sites – If you need to look at porn, then make sure you do it in a virtual environment. You are DEFINITELY going to get some virus or spyware if you browse porn sites on your computer. Virtualization basically allows you to run programs like Internet Explorer in a virtual environment that does not effect your current operating system. If you want to find out more, search for “Virtual PC” or “VM Ware” in Google. Otherwise, simply avoid going to shady web sites!

10. Turn On or Install a Firewall - If you’re running Windows XP, make sure Windows Firewall is turned on. A firewall prevents hackers from gaining access to your computer by limiting the number of ports that are open to the public. Also, when buying a wireless router, make sure it has a built in firewall. Having a software and hardware firewall is better than just having one or the other.

11. Secure Your Wireless Network – Most wireless routers are set to no security when you install them. Be sure to log into the router and at least set the basic security that requires a password. There are stronger encryption options, but if you don’t understand those, then simply set a password on the router, otherwise anyone can connect to your home network and access everything.

12. Use a Complex Password for Login – This means that you should already have a password to login to your computer. Not having a password at all is not a good idea. Create a password for all user accounts and make sure it’s complex. Complex means it should have numbers, upper case characters, lower case characters, and symbols. This makes it way more difficult for a hacker to get into your computer.

Why use a standard user account instead of an administrator account?

The standard account can help protect your computer by preventing users from making changes that affect everyone who uses the computer, such as deleting files that are required for the computer to work. We recommend creating a standard account for each user.

When you are logged on to Windows with a standard account, you can do almost anything that you can do with an administrator account, but if you want to do something that affects other users of the computer, such as installing software or changing security settings, Windows might ask you to provide a password for an administrator account.

Hope this was helpful.

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