One common question about Internet safety is, “How do I protect my computer while enjoying email attachments and downloading music?” The answer is that by following a few simple rules, it is easy to protect your computer while doing both.
Opening Email Attachments
* Email attachments are the most common way that computers get viruses. These viruses are not just the annoying kind either. A virus opened as an email attachment can delete your entire hard drive in almost no time. Even if the virus is just annoying, it will still be difficult to get rid of and can cause your computer to act up and to crash. While you do want to see your email attachments, you don’t want to get a virus. Following these rules will help
* Never open an email attachment if you don’t know who sent it. Some email viruses are exactly like the junk mail you receive via snail mail. These viruses are mailed out as attachments to all possible combinations of number and letters @gmail.com or @msn.com. Almost any email address is susceptible to this sort of spamming.
* Never open an email attachment if it doesn’t have a personal message. Viruses are very tricky and once they get in a computer, they mail themselves to everyone in that person’s inbox. That means a person can get an email attachment virus from someone they know and trust. The person whose computer sent the virus will not even know what is going on. What the viruses haven’t been able to learn (yet) is to type into the message field (but surely, that is coming).
* Never open an executable file. Files that end in EXE are programs that run on your computer. Learn about file extensions (the last three letters of a file name). Word files end with .doc and excel files end with .xls. If you start to pay attention, you will find that you recognize almost all the files that are sent via email. Never open a file if you don’t recognize the extension. You can email the person back and ask about the file if you have any question. Better safe than sorry.
* Never enable macros. Macros are special functioning programs that run in association with some files. Some viruses can be contained word or excel files (or any other file that has macros). If you open a document and a pop-up window asks about enabling macros, say “no”. There is no reason someone should send you something that includes code that runs on your computer. That’s what a macro does.
Some sites are fine. You can buy music online, from a secure site without worrying about your computer. You can also download demos from places such as MySpace or a band’s home page. While there can be viruses attached to any file, these sorts of downloads are relatively safe.
Another safe way to download music is to email files back and forth with friends (following the rules above) but these take a long time to attach and open.
File sharing music is a completely different thing. File sharing is extremely risky and legally and morally questionable.
Rule number one for protecting protect yourself from downloading a virus when you download music is to not use any file sharing software. File sharing software is spyware. This means that by using file sharing software, you are giving people, possibly bad people, access to your computer.
If you want to break rule number one, buy the best anti-virus software that you can find. Make sure it includes anti-spyware, anti-adware, anti-malware, and a pop-up blocker. However, file sharing is playing with fire. If you don’t want to get burned find another way to get your music.