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Saving Your Computer from Attack!

Okay, so you’re surfin’ the Net, looking at this article, watching that video, checking your email, and drooling over the hotties in the Entertainment section of your favorite news site. Somewhere along the line, you hit a website or open an unfamiliar email and unknown to you, a small application is installed on your computer. You didn’t see it happen, there were no warnings, no blinking lights, not one thing to tell you your computer has been compromised by malware, otherwise known as computer viruses, worms, Trojans, adware, spyware, or rootkits.

Whatever the malware is, it is almost always harmful to your computer, if not just truly annoying. It might cause your computer to slow down or it might wipe out all the family photos on your hard drive. It might join your computer to a botnet, a collection of infected computers, and run hidden in the background, automatically doing the bidding of its programmers such as executing a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on websites and or Internet services.

Unfortunately, most people don’t update the anti-virus software or they let the subscription expire. If your computer came with anti-virus software, such as McAfee, Norton, or another vendor, it is important to verify that those applications are updating the virus files daily. Also if you don’t turn off your computer at night, schedule a nightly quick scan and a full scan at least once a week to check for malware. If you do turn off your computer at night, schedule a time to run the scan once or twice a week. Additionally, learn how to use the anti-virus software; each vender has help files to answer any of your questions.

As it is hard for most anti-virus software to catch every instance of malware it is good to have a backup plan. Luckily, there are several freeware options out there. One of the best is Malwarebytes, which often finds malware that is passed over by other scanners. Other programs include Adaware, Spybot, IObit Security 360 and Advanced System Care, and a host of others. Each of these scanners is well made and can be found at Download.cnet.com. It is important to know that each of these free scanners need to be manually updated with the latest anti-virus files, the paid versions automatically runs these updates. Another, newer malware scanner is Microsoft Security Essentials 2011, which can be downloaded at Microsoft.com. It can be run in conjunction with most anti-virus scanners and updates automatically with Windows Update.

Computers are like cars in that they need to be serviced and cared for. One way to do this is to update your operating system. Windows has several versions, currently the oldest version that Microsoft still supports is Windows XP and it should be at Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Windows Update should be set to auto-update. Windows Vista and Windows 7 should also be set to auto-update. Microsoft issues security updates often and they should be installed to ensure the safety of your computer and the personal information on it. Hackers design the malware to attack computers that are vulnerable and usually those are computers that have not been updated.

Update your Internet browser. Whether you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or any other browser, make sure you are using the latest release. This ensures your Internet surfing is safer. If your computer is running a Windows XP operation system, Internet Explorer 9 will not work on it so you might want to look into switching to Firefox, Chrome, or Maxthon 3, which is the browser I use.

Lastly, never open an email or a file attached to an email from someone you don’t know. If you receive an unexpected email with an attachment from someone you do know, call them and verify that they sent it, especially if it seems suspicious in any way. Some malware comes as an attachment and once opened will show a file, play a presentation, or open a website and in the background install a malware program.

If you do find that your computer is infected with malware and you can’t remove it with any of the scanners above, seek professional assistance. If you’re lucky, you might have a relative that works with computers. If not, shop around and get references for local mobile computer technicians. Additionally, most computer superstores have mobile computer services or allow you to take the computer to them.

As always, back up your important files often, in case you need to restore that data.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Technology | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Saving Your Computer from Attack!


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