It’s fun to go online, but it is no fun to suffer with an annoying computer virus. Even less fun is trying to resurrect a dead hard drive. Especially when the paper due tomorrow is only saved on the dead computer’s desktop. Here are some tips that everyone should follow to avoid viruses while still having an active online life.
• Only use a computer that has anti-virus software installed. This is just basic protection. To go online without any protection is silly and you will likely get a virus. If not a virus, there are other little diseases like adware and spyware that you might get as you surf around the net. Most anti-virus software includes anti-adware and anti-spyware protection.
• Be careful what you open. Most computer-crunching viruses are sent as email attachments. Never open email that you aren’t expecting. Also never open an email from somebody you don’t know. What is scary is that someone you do know can send you an infected email attachment and they won’t even know it. Viruses reproduce themselves by sending themselves out as email attachments to live in host computers.
• Look for a personal message with all emails. A virus might get into a computer and mail itself but it will not be able to type a personal message. Consider any blank email with an attachment dangerous. You can always email that friend and ask if they sent you a blank email. Then you can know for sure.
• Never download a program that has to “run”. Downloading video games to run on your computer is asking for trouble. Go and buy a CD and download the video from the CD.
• Don’t download file-sharing software. File-sharing software is a type of spyware. It literally lets strangers see what you are doing on your computer. You can send files to your friends as email attachments if you want to share smaller files. Sometimes bigger files are harder to share. External hard drives and thumb drives are getting cheaper. If you need to make copies of big files like play-lists you can save the files and give them to the person the old fashioned way: by going to their house and handing it to them. Maybe your friend’s mom will make you cookies while you wait. Yeah, right.
• Don’t ever open a file that ends with EXE. Execute files can do exactly that: execute your computer. Educate yourself about file types and file extensions. Knowing what is typical will help you realize it when you are in an unusual situation. If you ever have any questions, don’t open the file.
• Be careful where you go. If you are using a search engine like Google, each hit that hasn’t been scanned will come with a question mark warning. The web sites that contain links to questionable files will have a stop sign warning. Do not cross the question marks or the stop signs. Only go where the search engine indicates that it is safe to go.
• Don’t trust ads you receive in your email. You might see a fake ad from Paypal that says they overpaid you. Don’t open it. You might get an ad that says you have won something. Don’t open it. You might get an ad that says you bought something you know you didn’t buy and has a link to click if you think there has been a mistake. (I just got one like this today) Don’t open it!
• Change your passwords often. If you do get a virus or even if your computer just starts acting weird you should change your password. Especially if you are only getting the weird stuff on one site. Some spyware sends back the passwords to the spies. They then use the password to get on your site and post.
There are a lot of ways to avoid viruses. Most people are able to protect themselves and their computer from viruses if they follow these steps.