Viruses: Protect your computer’s health

The number of viruses for your computer are always on the rise. Some are nuisances; others can be more serious and result in a repair bill and loss of information. The good news is there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your computer now. A small amount of time spent in protection can pay off.

Install a virus checker – and use it!
The first and most important rule is to have an up to date virus checker such as McAfee or Norton Antivirus installed on your computer.  But don’t think that just installing the software is enough.  New viruses come out daily.  You will have to update your virus software at least once a month.  Most programs will allow you to update your virus definition list online – often automatically – in order to protect you against the most recent viruses.

Once you have a program installed be sure to use it correctly. Many people install the software, but do not have it set up to any new files, especially those sent via e-mail or transferred by floppy disk. Check the options to be certain files are checked when they are opened. It will slow your computer down slightly, but is rth the hassle. You should also regularly run a full virus scan (perhaps every three months or so) which will scan all files on your harddrive. Most of these options can also be set to run automatically in your software’s settings.

For information on how to use and update your anti-virus software read the help files included with the program or contact the manufacturer.
Two of the best known programs are:
Norton Antivirus —
Mcafee —

Be wary of email
Be cautious of e-mail attachments as they are the most common virus carriers.  These attachments could be sent by anyone, either stranger or friend.  If it’s a virus, your friend may have no idea it was even sent. If you’re not sure why you have received a file, email the sender before you open the file and ask.

Another excellent way to protect yourself is to be aware of what viruses are out there and how they work. If you visit an anti-virus site you can see what types of viruses are out there just waiting to attack the unprepared. The most common file types which hide viruses are files which end in .vbs or .exe. The most commonly attacked systems and programs are usually the most popular. This is why Microsoft Windows as well as the e-mail program Microsoft Outlook are the biggest targets.

Next page: Beware hoaxes

Virus hoaxes
Often people play upon the fears of internet users and create virus hoaxes. These e-mails are an internet nuisance. Often the facts in the e-mail can be easily verified by visiting the sites or parties mentioned.  If you read that Disney is giving people money for forwarding mail, then visit their site and see if they have this listed there.  If you get an e-mail that Microsoft announced today about a virus which formats your hard drive then visit their site and look for the announcement.

Some hoaxes even claim that you have been infected by a virus and ask you to delete files from your computer – which are actually important to your system.  Always keep your skeptic’s hat on and do a bit of research before you follow the instructions. It’s also a good idea to verify these e-mails before you help pass them on to everyone in your address book instead of putting them in your trash bin where they belong.

Two sites can help you to research a virus – there is the Symantec threat list and the McAfee hoax list

What to do if you’re infected
If your virus scanner informs you that you have a virus you are one of the lucky ones – your “innoculation” has worked. Follow the instructions given by your virus scanner to remove to virus. Don’t assume that whoever sent you the virus did so deliberately – many people send viruses by accident, and some virus programs even “spoof” their email address (make it look as though someone sent you the mail when in reality it came from a different source).  You should let the individual know politely that you believe they may have been infected.

If you read about a virus and are not certain whether your computer has been infected, update your scanner and then scan your computer.

If you find you have been infected, it is a good idea to email those you email regularly to let them know about the problem. You can provide a link to Symantec or McAfee so that they can research the problem.  It is not a good idea to tell them how to remove the virus as each computer system is different and it may be they will have slightly different steps.

With these steps in mind, enjoy your time on the internet and emailing!