Computers are great, and we use them every day for a variety of purposes. From huge business networks and servers down to the desktop at your house and the phone in your pocket, computers have enabled us to grow as a civilization. One little fact has become apparent, the digital world is not a perfect place; much like a city you have good spots and bad spots. A computer virus can do anything from run in the background and collect your data to lock up your machine and prompt you to pay them. Ultimately the results of an infection are usually the same, you end up out of money getting the computer virus removed, computer replaced, or on identity protection because it has now been compromised.
What to do (or what not to do)
Fortunately there are easy ways to safeguard your machine from a malicious computer virus. It’s a combination of common sense, due diligence, and software. In my many years of using computers I can safely say that I have yet to unintentionally fall victim to a computer virus. With a little training on your part you can achieve a worry free computing environment too!
It sounds silly, but I can’t tell you how many unprotected computers I have seen. Install an antivirus solution. If you don’t and are connected to the internet, it’s a surefire way to get a computer virus. As far as which solution is best, it’s pretty much up to you. I like using Bitdefender (free of course) because it’s currently ranked the highest in finding and a stopping computer infections; it’s lightweight and unobtrusive. If you love your Norton 360, then by all means stick with it. Just make sure that is set to run automatic scans; and at least monthly you should be running full deep system scans.
Beware of the button
Buttons can contain any type of code that the web programmer wants it to. It could lead you to that song you’ve been looking for, or it could take you right to the computer virus they want to install on your computer. Usually these are targeted on sites that have torrent downloads, free mp3 services, or free software downloads. The only way to safeguard yourself is to be careful on what button you click. Honestly, which button do you click? I’d think twice before downloading anything from this site.
If you can, find a reputable source for the download you are looking for. Any one of these buttons can lead you to a computer virus, and end up making you pay for repairs or worse.[/span6]
Don’t hang up on “Windows Technical Support Agents”
Recently in the US I’ve been hearing a lot of stories about “Windows” people calling to tell someone that there is a computer virus on their system. Allow me to make this perfectly clear:
Windows will never call you and inform you about a computer virus on your system.
OK, that was probably excessive, but my point still stands. When someone claiming from Microsoft (or anywhere else) calls you to tell you about how they need access to your computer to fix a virus, don’t give them the access. Don’t hang up on them either. Gather as much information as you can from them, get their phone number, company name, address, etc. and then take that information and file a claim with the IC3, a joint venture by the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center.
The call probably starts with something like, “Hi I’m from garble garble Microsoft garble garble. We’ve registered an error on your Windows operating system, have you been experiencing issues lately?” Let’s face it, if you are using Windows then you have been experiencing issues lately. You’ll then be walked through how to give the caller remote access to your computer, DON’T DO IT!
Ignore pop-ups claiming you have a computer virus
These can actually be pretty tricky if you are running computer security software because they pop up and try to trick you into thinking that your anti-virus software has found something. Make sure you know what AV you are running, and what the pop-ups look like so you can tell if it really is from your software. If this pop-up opens in a web browser, it is more than likely malicious and you should avoid it. Don’t click on any buttons, use the alt+f4 keys to close the window, or you can open task manager (ctrl+alt+delete) and shut down the window. If you think it my have been your anti-virus software, open it up from your programs and run a scan.[/span6]
Don’t open emails from your Grandma
That may sound rude (OK it is a little rude), but the older generation is notorious for including you in the ‘forwarding chain’ emails. You know the one that is indented by two inches because of all the previous forwards, the one that you have to scroll down sixteen feet to reach the content, yea those. Don’t open them. It’s very easy for hackers to insert malicious software into those chain emails. They can be embedded in external links or images, and while may be good at catching a lot of those links, the surefire way of not getting infected with a computer virus is to not open it.
Be careful of what Google tells you
A lot of us treat Google as the spoken word of God. If Google says, then it must be true. We’ve been seeing a lot of Google results skewed by malware ridden sites, or paid advertisements looking official, but actually leading to infectious software. Thinking you are getting the best video player ever, may actually be you getting a computer virus. If you are Googling “Microsoft Security Essentials” because you need an antivirus, make sure you click on the link that goes to Microsoft, not the one from Im-a-virus.net
Use a non-admin account for general use and friend/family
If you aren’t a computer wiz and going to be installing lots of software and playing with your registry, then you should probably be doing everything under a standard user account. Only log into the admin account when you need to make changes to you computer. Your friends and family shouldn’t need to do anything with an administrative account either. Creating these limited privilege accounts are a great way to protect yourself because some malicious software can’t get the access it needs (easily) to run under a standard user account.