Protecting your computer from virus

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Computer viruses are little programs that replicate and attach to computer files and usually cause damage to your computer. These programs are man-made. Some brilliant people with evil intensions create them, and spread them in a manner so that large number of computers of the world are quickly affected and cause loss of data and damage to computer equipment.

There are several ways a computer virus can enter your computer.

1. Through e-mail attachments: Never open attachments to e-mails coming from unknown sources. They are probably number one source for computer virus. In fact, don't even open e-mails coming from unknown or dubious sources. When in doubt, immediately delete the e-mail along with its attachment.

2. Through downloaded files from the web: Download only from well known and reputable sites. Try not to download anything from unknown, mysterious sites. In any case, never open any downloaded file before scanning it with an anti-virus program.

3. Through floppy disks: Floppy disks that are used in many computers, such as office computers, are notorious for carrying viruses and infecting many computers. If you have to insert such a disk in your computer's floppy drive, first scan it with an anti-virus program before opening any file. If you ever inherit any old floppy disks from anybody, before reusing them first format them. That way, any virus present in the disk will be destroyed.

Your best protection against virus is to install a good anti-virus program in your computer. These programs can be scheduled to scan your computer for viruses automatically during start-up, at closing time, whenever you download a file, and so forth. The program runs in the background the whole time your computer is on, and it automatically starts scanning whenever something suspicious happens, e.g., when you are surfing the Net.

But the key is to keep the virus list (often called virus definitions) upto date. New viruses and their antidotes are being discovered almost everyday. So with an out dated virus list, your anti-virus program may not give you adequate protection against recently introduced viruses. Almost all good anti-virus programs will let you connect to their site either through the Internet or via modem, and download the latest virus definitions. You should do this at least once a month and 2 or 3 days after you hear on TV and radio that a new virus is creating havoc. I do it 2 or 3 days after hearing about the new virus, because I know by then the leading virus research laboratories would come up with an antidote for that virus. You just have to pay a nominal annual fee to your anti-virus company to be able to connect to their "Live Update" program and download the latest virus definitions. Considering the protection you get, the fee is worth paying.

The above paragraph was written around July of 2002. Since then I have upgraded my anti-virus software to Norton 2003. This automatically updates its virus definitions as soon as I connect to the Internet if an updated definition is available, and then it notifies me that my virus definitions have been updated! What could be more convenient than this?

A note about anti-virus programs: These programs must be turned off during software installation. Otherwise, after the installation, your computer will cause problems. You will get error messages, your computer will malfunction, it will freeze, and so forth.

This chapter was written several years ago. Since then a lot of changes have happened in the virus world and also in the ani-virus world. I'll very briefly summerize the changes in the following paragraph.

In the old times, people used separate Apps (applications or programs) for virus protection, malware/spyware protection, and for firewall protection. Since then leading companies like Symantec (Norton) and McAfee have introduced all-in-one packages like Norton Internet Security and McAfee LiveSave. These packaged applications will protect you from all possible dangers of the Internet and they update themselves very frequently (every hour or so) as long as you are connected to the Internet. They also protect you from dangers like phishing. They automatically block virus or other malware attack and warn you against dangerous sites (often porn sites) if you click on a link that leads to that site. These applications can be programmed to perform a 'full system scan' every week at a fixed time convenient for you (your computer must be running - not turned off). You can also perform a 'quick scan' of the most sensitive and often attacked areas of your computer whenever you suspect there is chance that you have been infected. These programs also scan on their own and present you with a report if they suspect an attack on your computer. Most often they treat the infection, if any found, or take other corrective measures (like quarantine the file/s) or they will suggest steps you can take to remedy the problem. You need to pay an annual fee to the anti-virus provider but it is worth every penny. Buying their services for multiple years at a time is always cheaper. You should use a good anti-virus program from the first day you use a new computer. Most renowned computer manufacturers sell their new computers already loaded with an anti-virus program and at least one year's service fee is included in the price of your new computer. You just have to activate the service as soon as you turn on your new computer!

If you need help using the Internet, check out the companion site:
Internet Basics For Seniors
If you need help with Windows XP, check out the companion site:
Help with Windows XP (New)
If you are an absolute beginner in computing, check out:

ABC's of Computing

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This page was last updated on January 14, 2014

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