What are the Best Ways to
Protect My Computer From Viruses? There are several precautions to take, but we'll answer this in
a very simple way: install virus protection software.
While it's not perfect, it's one of the best tools to have.
A large number of the inquiries we get here at TruthOrFiction.com
are from computer owners who are keeping track of all the virus
warnings so they can avoid infection. That's why there are so
many forwarded emails about viruses. People are helping one
another by staying informed.
It is a losing battle, however, to try to combat viruses by watching
for one that might come into your computer.
There are at least three reasons for that.
The sheer number of viruses There are more than 50,000 known viruses with more than 500 new
ones being discovered each month. It's impossible to have the
details about all of them fresh in your mind.
Some Viruses Hide Many viruses are associated with particular subject lines, file
names, or messages, but others can get into your computer without
any evidence that they are sneaking in.
The Identifying Information can Change Very often, the email warnings that are circulated about viruses
include descriptions that can change. For example, it is
common for some viruses to be associated with a particular word or
phrase in the subject line of an email. It is very easy,
however, for that wording to be changed along the way and the virus
can arrive in your email box without the kind of information that
will alert you.
Additionally, there is not a centralized clearing house for naming
and profiling viruses, so some of the information about particular
viruses may not be consistent.
Anti-virus Software Good virus protection software is always watching what is
happening on your computer and can consult information about known
viruses in a fraction of a second. Additionally, most virus
software programs offer regular updates that add information about
any new viruses.
We've received many emails from readers who have anti-virus software
that did not protect them from a particular virus, but most of the
time, it was because they were not getting the latest virus updates
from the makers of the software. It's easy to either let a
subscription to the updates lapse or, if the software came on a new
computer, to not realize that the mere presence of the software is
not enough. It needs to be updated, usually by either
registering the program or purchasing an annual subscription, which
is not very expensive when compared with the headaches
that can happen from viruses..
Other Precautions As valuable as virus software is, it is not perfect, especially
if you happen to get a virus that is brand new and may not be known
to your software.
There are several good, sensible things to do to protect your
Beware of Attachments to Emails
Probably the single most important non-software protection from
viruses comes from being suspicious about emails that have any kind
of attachments, especially program files (ones that have an
"exe" extension). There are infections that can come
with or in other files as well as well, however, so the focus should
not be on exe files only. For example, there are troublesome
consequences from programs that have been constructed with macros in
Word For Windows documents. The majority of viruses that come
through email are in attachments, however, so being cautious about
them can be important.
It might be easy to think that if you
simply made it a point to never open an attachment, you would never
get a virus and some people have made that recommendation.
Even that is no guarantee, however, and we don't recommend that be a
substitute for anti-virus software. There are at least two
infections that we know of that can happen from an email that has no
attachment. Also, it's just very easy to absent-mindedly open
an attachment or for somebody else using your computer to open
one. Not long ago, we received an article from a gentleman who
advised his mailing list that virus protection software is a waste
of money and that he's kept his computer completely clean by
avoiding attachments. At that same moment, however, his
computer had been infected with the "SirCam" virus and
TruthOrFiction.com had already received more than 10 infected files
emailed from his computer.
Be Cautious About Files From Other Sources as Well Most discussion about viruses centers on emails, but the reason
is that email is the most common vehicle for sharing files with one
another. Any means by which you can exchange files can be a
channel for viruses such as floppy disks, CD's, and some files
downloaded from the Internet. It's a good idea to check floppy
disks with your anti-virus software, especially if someone is giving
you some programs or files on a floppy.
Backup, Backup, Backup Computers are amazingly reliable when you consider what
delicate machines they are, but the chances of losing your treasured
files are great, especially from viruses. You can also lose
files from equipment failure, software glitches, theft, and disaster
such as flood or fire. Most of us haven't gotten serious about
backing up our important files until a disaster occurred, but we do
it now! Just imagine how you would feel waking up tomorrow
morning to a complete loss of everything on your computer.
That's the incentive to establish some system of backing-up your
files. There are a lot of ways to do it such as making copies
of the files on floppy disks, CD's, or removable drives such as the
Iomega Zip or Jazz drives. Our favorite is an online backup
service that uses the Internet to automatically upload the files
that you've chosen to protect. That way, you'll still have
your important data even if flood or fire destroys everything else.