How to avoid computer viruses?

virus(41523)Credit: Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.netVirus detected! It was very enjoyable at first when my first Anti-virus software detects and announced audibly to me that it has detected a virus, but after it has successfully resounded about a thousand times my happy face was gone. After that incident, it only took me a while before I decided my computer needs some reformatting, my newly installed Antivirus wiped away all the virus but the damage was done, my computer registry files were already corrupted.  I was a computer “newbie” back then, who only knows nothing but installing and playing computer games. I wonder, back then, am I cultivating viruses? A thousand detections, that is pretty scary if that happens to me now.

I hate computer viruses, well who does not? There are times those viruses disable my task manager and often times slows down my computer. Some instances that they block important web addresses, and they can even prevent you from updating your Anti-virus software. You might experience some of these or might have encountered far worst situations other than what I have mentioned (like the infamous Blue Screen of Death). So I made this article for people who are not that familiar in facing this “web demons”. However, even if you consider yourself knowledgeable in this matter you might find something useful to absorb in this simple guide.

1. Establish Your First Line of Defense

Whenever I reformat my computer one of the first software I install is Antivirus software. It’s one of the basics for me. It is good to be safe than sorry. An Antivirus software is different from a virus cleaner, both may be related, but they are not thoroughly the same. An Antivirus prevents viruses from entering your computer while a virus cleaner cleans your computer from viruses that is already present inside your system. Though there are some antiviruses that is good in removing viruses inside your system but always remember that viruses have the ability to deactivate your Antivirus.

antivirusCredit: Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Once infected, its either you reformat your computer or use a virus cleaner then fixing your registry after that.  Well then what is the problem with these softwares? Most of them are not free but the good thing is there some software out in the Internet that offers themselves free. The three most known would be Avast, Avira and AVG, the said Antiviruses can be bought but those three also offer a free but limited version. I recommend also Malwarebytes to go along with your antivirus. I heard positive reviews about that software and it is free.

Microsoft offers an Antivirus program for free if your operating system is genuine and not a fake one. It is called Microsoft Security Essentials. It is not pre-installed in Vista and Windows 7, but you can download it on Microsoft’s website for free. Furthermore, Microsoft Defender is pre-installed in both Vista and Windows 7, though Defender does not really detect viruses, but it protects you from Spywares. If you do not know what Spyware is, it is simply an unwanted program (similar to a virus) made to spy on your system. If you want to download both, download it directly in Microsoft’s website. If you try a search engine and look for other sites or mirror sites you would find many places to download those softwares but most of them would likely be viruses.

2. Update, Update then Update

Updating may sometimes be a tedious task. There are times that we need to update daily in a given week. Updating is a headache if you are surfing the web, streaming video online or playing online games since your internet speed is slowed down because of the update.  Updating is no problem though, if you tend to click “update” then just leave your computer connected to the internet (and of course disable standby mode) and do something, anything would do. Furthermore, you could update and do something else in your computer without getting the Internet involve, for example, write an article in your Microsoft Word (To tell you the truth that is what I’m doing right now, I hope I finish this article before the updates are completed for it will prompt me to restart my system).

Update what? First is Antivirus updates, it is very important, for an outdated Antivirus is like having no virus protection at all. Antivirus updates depends on your Antivirus software, some of them updates regularly and there some, updates weekly. Of course, obviously if you are pretty cautious about computer viruses you would want an Antivirus that frequently updates. One important fact, there are new computer viruses being made every day. Now, if you do have some Antivirus, but it seems not updating regularly do not be dismayed quickly. Many Antivirus softwares have this ability to detect a virus, even if it is unidentifiable in its virus database. The Antivirus simply detect the virus through the action it is performing on your system, also those Antiviruses are equipped to be very strict if there is a file that seems to be similar to the architecture of a certain virus. However, really it is still good to have frequent updates though it would come a time that it would be annoying. If you are too contained enough with other things thus you are unable to update regularly just make sure to update at least every week. That would be the safest update gaps, a little more than a week could really make your system vulnerable to computer virus attacks.

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Second is operating system updates, I assume you have a genuine operating system. If not, you are missing a big part of your Internet security. operating systems offer security updates, also do remember about Microsoft Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials.  You cannot update the two if you have a fake operating system. Furthermore, an updated operating system can reduce the virus'’ ability. For example, a virus is programmed to corrupt a certain “registry A” in my system, but I decided to update before the virus infiltrated my system. The update, updated my “registry A” to “registry A+” sincethe virus is design only to work in the “registry A” it would be confused if it found the “registry A+”. The virus can still do some nasty things but since it is designed to work on a system with a “registry A” it cannot damage my system by its utmost capability. I hope you understand the “A” and the “A+” things, and for the record, I am not talking about any score on my exams (I really wish it was).

3. System Upgrade

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Why can’t we just be contented with our Operating System? What is the benefit of an OS upgrade? One benefit might be obtaining new features, of course it is natural for us to look for something new.  Furthermore, an upgraded Operating System oftentimes has good softwares pre-installed on it. For example, the snipping tool program that comes pre-installed in Microsoft Windows 7 and some versions of Vista. Instead of using “print screen” key on your keyboard then trimming the image afterwards, you can use the snipping tool program. It is like highlighting a certain image, after snipping. It would produce an image which is a .jpg file.

Furthermore, I made an experiment about why we must upgrade our operating system. The article is named “Computer's OS Virus Crash Test”. The problem with upgrading is that you need to buy another OS again. Operating systems are not that cheap, but if you want to be completely protected from viruses then you should consider this option. In addition, to all Microsoft Windows XP users out there, Microsoft will stop giving updates to XP Operating Systems on April 2014. I just thought you might want to know.

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4. Sytem Monitor

I see a big question mark over your head. You might be scared by this technicality, more if you consider yourself plainly average in the knowledge about computers. Do not worry, you do not have to be a computer geek to monitor your system. It is a very simple task but of course it requires a little patience on your side. You can monitor your system using the Task Manager. How? Open the task manager, shortcut key would be CTRL+ALT+delete. Then click the Processes tab just beside the application tab. There you would see list of processes running inside your system. If you are sure you are not infected with a computer virus you better copy what you see in the Processes tab.

Now I tell you what I do, I have a list of the programs running in the Processes tab saved. Actually I just used the print screen key.  Weekly I try to check on the process tab in my task manager comparing it to the saved image I have where I was sure no virus was running. Whenever I found a process not on my list I try to search for the file name in the Internet and look for its definition. If it is a virus I try to right click on it and select “end process” then I again search the Internet to find out how to remove it. Be wary, viruses are tricky they sometimes use unsuspicious names or sometimes they rename themselves and replaces the good files running in the Processes tab. So it is good to also take note the amount of memory each file in the Processes tab uses, that would help you distinguish if it is the true file or a virus that simply renamed itself.

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We could summarize everything that I said about system monitoring in one sentence, “If your computer is running slower than it usually does you might want to check it, it might be infiltrated with viruses”.  (How to Avoid Malwares Using the Task Manager)

5. Avoid Unknown Territories

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Do not go to sites you do not know. Let us compare your mouse to a gun, do not be "trigger happy". Just because you saw a link in a webpage, you would click it? Do not be too eager to go to a certain website, it is good to look them up first, do some background check. For example, if I saw a very interesting site named Y.com but have no idea if it is a safe site I try to look at it on a search engine. I will type, “What is Y.com”, there I would find forums that would tell me about the website without going directly to the website. You could also try Google’s page rank, if it is a good site it would have a decent rank. Furthermore, be careful on the sites you sign-up to. If a certain bad site knows your e-mail address, they would send you spam messages or worst viruses. One of the sites I have seen has this ad “Click me, I’m the free", that may sound hilarious but people do click those kinds of ads. It would not be there if it does not entertain any audience.

6. Free is Not Always Safe

Everyone loves free stuffs and the Internet is one great source of those stuffs. Softwares are the most prominent. Be careful of free softwares and services you download or subscribe for. Free is not always safe. There are some softwares that offer themselves without requiring you to pay but with additional viruses in it or have spywares and malwares that would go along once you install it. Of course they would not tell you that. So one advice before you download those free stuffs, try to know if the website you are downloading those stuffs is really safe. Make sure also, that the website has a comment box. There you would know if the software is good or just a package of viruses, from the users who first downloaded it.

7. E-mail Alert

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Do not open an e-mail sent by a person you do not know. Furthermore, do not open an e-mail which seems suspicious, even if the one who sent it is a person familiar to you. It is good to verify it first. The infamous “I Love You Virus” done by a group of students in the Philippines is one of those tricky viruses. Once your system is infected with that computer virus, it would send itself to other people listed on your mailing list. The problem is the name whom those people will see is your name not any stranger’s name. Always be careful if there is a file attached to the suspicious message, do not download it.So it was a great idea when Yahoomail integrated itself with AVG.

8. Disabling Autorun

If you have a computer but many uses it, like you are in an office, and your co-workers is frequently borrowing your laptop and inserting their removable devices. You need to disable the Autorun of those devices. Since, that is one way viruses infects your computer. You can use the gpedit.msc command in XP to disable autorun.

In Vista, there is no gpedit.msc you need to go to regedit to edit the registry which I do not recommend for beginners since it is the registry you will be messing with. Messing the registry would be for advance users, for a little error in the editing of your registry could result to major problems inside your system. I do recommend using software that could disable your Autorun, there are free softwares out there that offers that kind of service. You can also disable Autorun using regedit for both Windows XP and Windows 7. Still the best way to disable Autorun is using regedit or certain software. I have made a separate article about disabling autorun that tackles both the gpedit.msc and regedit procedure. It is an article that tells why do we need to disable the autorun and how to do it.

9. Two Heads are Better than One    

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One great way to be safe in computer viruses is to partition your hard disc. If you partition your hard disk you would see an extra drive, usually it would be drive E. If you got infected by a virus, most of the time it would only infect the C drive but not the drive E or the other partition drives. Viruses often settle on C:windowssystem32 so other partitions won't be harmed. There are some people who partitions, to make a dummy drive or OS. They would install the operating system on both drive but would not bother the C drive and work in the other partition. The C drive would serve as their dummy OS. A large number of viruses are programmed in an ASAP command to attack the C drive, since it is the default drive and wouldn’t bother touching the other drives.

COMPUTER VIRUS REMOVAL

If you feel your system is already infected with a computer virus, check out the link below for tips on how to remove it: The_Computer_First_Aid_Kit_-_Virus_Removal_Techniques