Below are the 9 steps that I have taken to completely protect my computer. Sometimes, users themselves don’t realize that the virus was released when they executed a file. So here are the precautions to take make sure that everything is completely taken care of.
Anti-virus software will prove to be very helpful in defending your computer against malicious code – provided it’s used correctly. These are recommendations for you to get the most out of your anti-virus program:
- Choose a good anti-virus program.
- Keep it up-to-date.
- Use it!
- Don’t rely on it.
- Use it intelligently.
A list of anti-virus programs and their reviews is available here. This page also explains what to focus on when selecting an anti-virus solution and how to interpret test results. Also take a look at this page, which explains why you shouldn’t blindly follow the recommendations of your favorite PC magazine: Computer Magazines and Virus Testing.
Anti-virus programs can only protect you from what they know about. Since new viruses surface every day, it’s very important that the antivirus program updates itself regularly. The free antivirus that I use updates itself daily.
An unused anti-virus program is obviously useless. Use your anti-virus program to scan new files you just downloaded or to do routine scans. If you are not very knowledgeable about computers and viruses you may benefit from using the memory resident scanner. If, however, you know what you are doing, then you probably can live without it.
Modern anti-virus programs detect malicious code quite reliably but it is very important to remember that NO anti-virus program is perfect. No anti-virus program on Earth can compensate for imprudence or unsafe software. No anti-virus program will ever detect all viruses all the time.
Some anti-virus programs offer some questionable features and gadgets. You shouldn’t use a feature just “because it’s there”. For example, AV scanner certification messages are essentially useless and only serve to advertise AV software.
You are strongly advised to apply all security-related patches for your software as they become available. You can use the Windows Update and Office Update sites to keep your system up-to-date. Note that they work with Internet Explorer only. You may have to monitor your Internet security warnings in order for them to function correctly.
Microsoft’s popular Internet Explorer and Outlook Express programs have been known to be somewhat “buggy” and are often targeted by malicious “programmers”. You may benefit from using alternative software. Here is a list of alternatives:
Note that security holes may be discovered in these programs as well (though probably less frequently), so it’s a good idea to check for updates regularly. You’ll be able to import your IE Favorites to most of these browser alternatives.
Consider using IE only for downloading Windows updates and critical security patches for your particular version of Windows.
Never, ever :
- open email attachments from someone you don’t know
- open email attachments forwarded to you even if they’re from someone you know
- open unsolicited or unexpected e-mail attachments until you’ve confirmed the sender actually meant to send them. If you know the sender and you are absolutely sure they intentionally sent the attachment, then scan it with an up-to-date virus scanner before opening it.
- Never pay attention to virus warnings or even forward them unless you subscribe to a serious virus newsletter.
- Never obtain software from “warez” sites or peer-to-peer programs like Kazaa. Get it from known, trusted sources only.
Note: Some files can best be tested by first invoking their associated application and then using the “Open” function of that application. For example, picture image files such as JPG and GIF can be tested by invoking the picture viewer of your choice. When such files are received as email attachments or downloaded, they should first be saved to some test or download folder (you can create one for this purpose). Then you can use your picture viewer application to safely open the file. If there is something amiss with the tested file your viewer will complain and you can just delete the file.
Similarly, sound files such as MP3 and WAV can also be tested by first invoking your player of choice. Text (TXT) files should also be opened by first invoking Notepad. Never double click on these files while in Explorer or in your email client until they have been tested in this way. There may be a hidden file extension.
Stop using DOCs (if at all possible). Instead, use pure Rich Text Format for your documents, because that doesn’t support the macro language. There’s a caveat to this unfortunately. Some macro viruses intercept File SaveAs RTF and save a file with a .RTF extension which actually contains a DOC format file! So it needs to be real RTF. Tell the people that you deal with that you would rather they sent you RTF or CSV (Comma-Separated Variable) files rather than DOC or XLS.
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