TUCOWS ARTICLE

How to Prevent Viruses, Beyond the Obvious

At this point in time nearly everyone has heard of computer viruses. Perhaps the first one that got widespread attention was the Michaelangelo Virus. That was March 6th, 1993 and the entire world learned about it. Computer virus experts were on talk shows and programs like ABC's "Nightline." Oh, there had been other viruses and Trojan horses, but this was really one of the first that got lots of attention.
Published: Jul 4, 2005
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Related OS: Windows
Categories:
Anti-Virus scanners
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This question submitted by Kristine Tormeno and numerous others

A Little Background

At this point in time nearly everyone has heard of computer viruses. Perhaps the first one that got widespread attention was the Michaelangelo Virus. That was March 6th, 1993 and the entire world learned about it. Computer virus experts were on talk shows and programs like ABC's "Nightline." Oh, there had been other viruses and trojan horses, but this was really one of the first that got lots of attention.

This virus got its name due to the fact that it would become active on the birthday of the famous sculptor and painter. Some people avoided it by installing anti-virus software for the first time, while others just turned off their computers for a day. Since that time there have been thousands of computer viruses, trojans, worms, bombs, and more. Many, like the "I Love You Virus" targeted email and stole the address books of people who used Microsoft Outlook. Then it kindly sent itself to all those people, got their email addresses, and so on and so on. But the question has been raised, and I'm here to answer, "How can I prevent viruses beyond doing the obvious?" Good question.

The "Obvious"

First off, the obvious. EVERYONE should have anti-virus software on their computer. Software that can automatically update itself when you're online. Why? Because anti-virus software that isn't kept up-to-date is pretty much useless. New viruses are found each and every day. A friend was having problems with their computer and it was acting very strange. They asked me to look at it. One of the first things I asked was, "Do you have anti-virus software?" Oh yes they told me. "And when was the last time it was updated?, I asked. Oh, 3 years ago they told me. Long story short I had to reformat their hard drive and reinstall everything because the computer was totally infested by hundreds of viruses. So, first rule of the obvious - Have anti-virus software and keep it updated!

The Not-So Obvious

Even with anti-virus software that's up-to-date you need to exercise a bit of caution. After all, with new viruses being release nearly every day, you may just be lucky enough to get one that isn't covered by your software. So, another rule: Never download, much less open, ANY file from someone you don't know!

Now, there's also a new thing called "spoofing" where someone pretends to be sending email from your email address. And for all intents and purposes it may look like it's from someone you know. The best advice is to pay attention the context. If you get an email from your friend "Bob" and Bob is talking about things that your friend wouldn't talk about, be suspicious. The old adage, "Better safe than sorry" is a really good one. So, when in doubt, and here comes another rule: Don't open emails that request strange things, even if the email address says it's from a friend.

There's also an interesting twist called phishing which is pronounced just like fishing. What is it? It's an email that looks very official. From your bank or from PayPal or from eBay or some other source that you may do business with. Generally these official-looking emails will be asking you to verify your credit card number or re-enter your password or confirm your Social Security number. One big tip-off is that these emails always have the link to their Web site in the email. And if your email program can show you where hyperlinks are going you'll see that this official-looking one is going to some jokers site. Let me use PayPal as an example. The link inside the email may say http://www.paypal.com BUT it's actually going to some official-looking, bogus site like http://11.22.33.44/paypal.com/billybob/. You click that link and you won't be giving your information to PayPal, but to Billy Bob. So, next rule: Never click on hyperlinks INSIDE emails that supposedly come from some institution. Real, reliable, respectable companies like PayPal know that you know their Web address.

The Email Email Virus

This is a tricky one and many people miss it completely. You get an email from a trusted friend telling you that there's this terrible virus going around. Your friend asks you to notify all the people in your address book and warn them. And that's what he's doing for you. Well, ultimately, there is no virus in the real sense, the "virus" is actually the millions of emails that get generated by a scam like this. The email you send is a type of "virus" because it helps to bog down the Internet. Everyone is warning everyone else and that becomes the so-called virus. Something similar happens when you get emails, again from trusted friends or family, saying to send this email to 20 people in order to accomplish a certain goal. All you really accomplish is gumming up everyones email inbox.

Summing It Up!

How can you prevent viruses beyond the obvious? Well, first is to make sure you do the obvious. Have an anti-virus program and keep it updated. Next, is to take most things with a grain of salt. Trust your instincts. And when in doubt, don't. Ask yourself, "Would Mary really have sent me an email like this?" Or "Would eBay really cancel my account over my credit card number?" Or "If this virus is so big, why do we have to warn everyone by email?" Think before you click. Before you open an email attachment or respond to an official-looking email. And when in doubt, DON'T Don't click, don't open, don't respond. Just delete the email and be on your way. There was a time when an email was just an email, and when an attachment was just an attachment, and when an email from your bank was just that. Sadly, those days have gone the way of the dinosaur. Doesn't mean you can't have fun and work and play online, it just means that you have to be aware.


Here are some antivirus programs you can try out.

Thanks to Kristine Tormeno and all the others who asked this question If you have a question on how to do something on the computer you can submit it via email by clicking HERE You will not receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.


About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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