Dealing with E-Mail
E-Mail is one of the most common ways a virus spreads. They will get into the infected system's contact list and email themselves out to everyone hoping to make it through and infect a new system.
If you receive a file in your email from someone you don't recognize, do not try to open the attachment. Savvy virus creators have many tricks up their sleeves to make the attachment look benign, but unless you know all of the signs to look for your best bet is to delete the message.
If you receive a file from someone you do know, but you weren't expecting it, don't be afraid to follow up and ask if they really sent it. Computer viruses today have become communicable, and one way they spread themselves is through the email contact lists on the systems they infect.
Files Downloaded from the Internet
When you download a file from your favorite website, chances are that the file is virus free. But even the most reputable websites find themselves compromised. It isn't a bad idea to virus check these files before unzipping and installing them on your computer.
Most anti-virus applications will allow you to right click on a file you have downloaded and scan that file to make sure it is virus-free. Taking that simple precaution could save you hours of time and hundreds of dollars in PC repair costs.
Fake Anti-Virus ApplicationsYou may be surfing around your favorite websites and suddenly see an ominous message about your computer being infected. The message has a helpful link to an anti-virus application that promises to clean up your system for the low, low price of $29.95. Most of the time these messages are thinly veiled attempts to get you to download and install virus laden software. Instead of removing any virus on your computer, these trojan applications will install a nasty payload on your computer that will be very difficult to remove.
Computer FirewallAll newer computers come with some kind of firewall software installed. Firewalls stop computers "out there" from making unwanted connections to your computer. Keeping this firewall enabled and up to date is an important virus prevention step. You may be tempted to disable it because of the frequent requests by the firewall to allow applications to access the network, but don't. Tests show that a machine that isn't firewalled can be compromised on open networks in as little as two minutes.
AntiVirus SoftwareThis almost goes without saying, but it is important to install solid anti-virus software and keep it up to date. You can use the software that shipped with your computer, usually Symantec or McAfee, or you could try AVG's free home computer anti-virus. You also have alternatives like Avast, ClamWin, Avira, and BitDefender.
Viruses are expensive, damaging and an unfortunate reality in our technology dependent world. People from all over the world are developing new viruses and other destructive computer programs to prove themselves on-line, to capture your personal information or to use your computer as a base to attack other systems. This can seem very scary and leave you very paranoid as you use the internet daily to conduct business, interact with friends and stay up on current events. Fortunately,with a little common sense and a tiny bit of vigilance, you can keep your computer virus free.