How can I stay safe from viruses?

Computer viruses are a related fact of modern life. Anti-virus software is necessary, and both it and the database it uses must be kept up to date.

Computer viruses are a fact of modern life, connected to the Internet. At best, they’re annoying performance-sucking animals, but at worst… kiss all your data, and maybe your bank account or identity, bye-bye. We all have to take steps to make sure our computers are safe, or we risk infection. Complacency is not simply an option. And yet, even after all the news, all the horror stories, all the warnings, and even after so long… complacency is still all too common.

There are four important steps you must take:

1. Install and run a Virus Fighting Program There are many out there. Personally, I keep Malwarebytes Anti Malware on my main machine. He was one of the first to recognize and clean up after some newly penetrating viral infections, and has earned a very good reputation.

“Download and install the package of your choice. Now. Before forget.”
I also run and have run other anti-virus solutions with good results on some of my other machines. Specifically, I have found the free versions of AVG and Avira. I’ve also heard good things about the free version of Avast. While I’m not a huge fan of their product offerings, Symantec maintains one of the best reference sites for virus security related issues. Not all virus scanners catch all viruses. It is recommended to have a selection of additional virus scanners to run as a “second level”. Most downloadable virus scanning solutions often include free trial periods, which can also be useful as one-time second-level scans. Download and install the package of your choice. Now.

2. Updating the antivirus database After installing your anti-virus software, your first step should be to update the virus signature database that comes with it. New viruses are created every day, and the databases used by antivirus programs are updated frequently as well. It is necessary to update to the latest database for the program immediately. Most update programs function to locate, download, and install the latest databases regularly and automatically. Make sure it is enabled.

3. Run a regular scan Most anti-virus programs work automatically. Once installed, these programs are set to scan all incoming and outgoing files, and often hook into your email in some way, to double check that your received email is clean as well. Unless you know what you’re doing, make sure this “real-time” scan is enabled. (Although email scanning can be disabled if it interferes with your email program.) It is also recommended to periodically run scans of your hard drive(s). Certainly the first time you install the software you should run a full scan. Then, depending on how heavily used your computer is, you should run a regular scan as well. Some programs allow you to schedule a scan to happen automatically. In my case, for example, since my computers are on 24 hours a day, I can schedule the full virus scan at night, while I’m asleep.

4. Keep Windows-To-Date Visit Windows Update regularly, or simply turn on the automatic update feature in Windows. All software has bugs. Some of those bugs are used to create the exploits that virus writers take advantage of to create viruses that can infect your system. As these bugs are found, Microsoft fixes the affected components in the operating system, and makes the fixes available for automatic download and installation through Windows Update. The “problem” is that not once are bugs discovered and advertised, and even when the fix is ​​available, virus writers get busy writing viruses that still exploit them.

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