Viruses, a world in panic and your computer


Cue dramatic music,

It seems that there is another virus out there that is popping up in the news… and if anything can be counted on, it’s that the media will play it up like it’s the end of the world.  I’m sure that we’ll see lots of images of darkened rooms, lit only by the glow of a computer monitor (probably with a murky smoke effect to heighten tension).  And the news will pronounce that this new technology has infected more computers than ever, and that it could potentially end all civilization as we know it.  It’s the same news we get when any new virus arrives, but all hope is not lost and taking a few precautionary steps can help prevent your computer from being infected.

How to help protect your computer from being infected:

1.  Have some form of up to date antivirus software loaded on your computer – ( AVG antivirus is a great free alternative to Norton )

2.  Make passwords more difficult to break by adding numbers, capital letters, and when possible punctuation marks

3. Turn on Automatic Update for Windows – ( most viruses exploit unpatched vulnerabilities in your operating system )

4.  Avoid opening and passing along forwards via email – ( most mail servers will scan for viruses, but why take the chance?)

5.  Occasionally run malware and spyware detection tools  – (Adaware, Spybot Search and Destroy)

6.  Close out of any popups or pages that say your are infected with viruses – (usually these sites will load malware or spyware on your computer)

7.  Monitor the surfing habits of your kids / teens closely, curiosity will sometimes lead to unwanted software and popups.

8.  Before installing ANY software, think about whether you trust the publisher

9.  Consider the use of a firewall (keeps out bad guys)  Windows XP and Vista have them built in, you might just need to enable it.

10. Most importantly, slow down and read before clicking on anything.  If it seems too good to be true… it is.

Saving Headaches Down the Road:

So what if the news is right and that virus is going to destroy all of the information on your computer?  The best thing to do is to be proactive about your information and back it up.  One of the simplest solutions out there is the humble flash drive.  It’s compact, cheap, easy to use and can be stored in another location so that even if your house burns down your information is safe.  Print backups of important documents and keep them in a safe place, in the event of computer malfunction having hardcopies will be invaluable.  Don’t panic: in the event that your computer breaks down or is malfunctioning information can usually be retrieved from your hardware by your friendly neighborhood geek.

The Breakdown

With many of us storing photo collections, personal documents and even taxes on our computers it’s more important than ever to back up information (preferably in a secondary location).  Keeping your virus software updated and turning on Automatic Updates for Windows will protect you from most viruses out there.  Surf Smart – There are plenty of bad guys out there, think before clicking.  Lastly:  At some point someone may break into your computer, think about what types of information you want to have on your computer and what information is best kept someplace safe.