In the first part of our post on computer viruses, we talked about what a computer virus was, how it infected your system, and the possible effects of such an infection. In effect, the bad news. Here’s the good news, avoiding infection via computer virus and protecting your system is easy if you follow some simple guidelines.
First, let’s discuss how to avoid getting a virus in the first place.
- Avoid strange email attachments, sketchy software, and visiting untrustworthy websites. The latter is easy if you have STOPzilla AntiVirus 8.0 installed, as the web filter feature actively protects you from such threats.
- Avoid secondhand hardware or computer parts that have not been thoroughly scrubbed and/or not from a trusted source. Such components may have unwelcome passengers within their firmware.
- Make sure that when using external hard drives, thumb drives, and similar removable media you thoroughly inspect each file you copy to your machine. Most security software or antivirus programs feature scanning of such devices; make sure it’s enabled for an extra layer of protection.
- Do not keep passwords, personal information, and other sensitive data on your machine unencrypted. Optionally, use software like LastPass or VeraCrypt to encrypt it
- If at all possible use plain text email and/or disable automatic downloading of attachments, pictures, HTML, etc. in your email client.
Finally, let’s discuss how to protect your machine in case you can’t avoid it.
- It’s been touted often on this blog that if you use the Internet you need security software or an antivirus with the newest patches and/or virus definitions. Even if you don’t use STOPzilla AntiVirus use something, because if you don’t you will regret it later. Surfing the web without proper security is like taking a swim in a polluted river. You might not catch something now or even the next time, but you will catch something eventually and not having security software just makes that all the easier.
- Enable your firewall and check for exceptions (i.e., “open ports”) you didn’t make. The latter is easy to do in most operating systems and can be easily Googled for your particular OS. If there is anything that looks suspicious double check its authenticity and if not needed, simply remove the exception.
- Keep your operating system up to date. Whether this is done by automatic updates or on a schedule you set. An up to date machine is usually more secure against malware.
- Keep a current up to date backup or system image of your computer. If possible perform a backup “on site” (e.g., to a separate hard drive or similar removable media) and one “offsite” (e.g., via the cloud). Keeping a spare copy of personal files such as photos, documents, and settings is also a good idea in case the worst happens. We live a lot of our life digitally these days and losing such files is can be frustrating.
That wraps up computer viruses so stay tuned for further blog posts on malware.