Viruses can be a tricky thing. Viruses, spyware, and malware are constantly being developed by numerous people with nefarious purposes. No Antivirus program is perfect, and it may be necessary to use a combination of two or three programs to provide the best security you can get. A lot depends on whether you want to pay for premium protection, or use one of the free products available.
In the paid software arena, our current recommendation is Malware Bytes. We install and setup the paid version Malware Bytes for $50. It was the top-rated product at independent testing sites. Bear in mind that our minimum cost to eliminate a virus from your computer is $175, and Malware Bytes starts to sound like a deal, doesn’t it?
As for your free options, AVG and Avast offer full-featured free programs that perform at or beyond the level of competing paid-for programs. AVG offers a “link protection” ability, scanning hyperlinks while you surf to identify threats before you click. Avast has a handy “gaming mode” that keeps it quiet; it will update itself, scan and remove threats in the background without annoying pop-up notifications.
Your AV software can’t work unless you let it. After installation, you should register the software, set up scheduled scans of your files and allow the program to check for updates daily. If you’ve set up a scheduled scan to happen at 2 a.m. but turn the computer off every night, nothing gets done. Remember to give the AV program a chance to run deep scans of your files.
It is not wise to have multiple antivirus, antispyware, and antimalware products running simultaneously. They can cause conflicts with each other, rob system resources and slow down your computer.
If you use Windows, don’t ignore the operating system updates – check Windows Update at least once a week. Also, some manufacturers (such as HP) pre-load your computer with model-specific programs which keep its hardware drivers up to date. In addition to keeping your computer running in top form, these operating system and driver updates also help protect your computer against loopholes that can be exploited by hackers.
On the Internet
Use the Address Bar and the Status Bar in your browser. Keep an eye on the address bar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Address_bar) at the top of your screen. In addition to showing you the website address, many browsers color- and icon-code website addresses based on their authenticity and security.
The status bar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_bar) at the bottom of your screen is handy for verifying links before you click them. Hovering your mouse over any hyperlink will cause the actual URL to appear in the status bar. So if the link description on the web page doesn’t match up with the actual link, you have reason to pause and question the veracity of the link.
Common sense surfing
Practicing safe browsing is the best defense. While a virus attack could potentially come from any compromised website, it’s more likely to come from a site offering free games, pirated music, nude pictures, or other downloads that you’d usually have to pay for. Simply avoiding those sites will go a long way towards reducing your exposure to malicious attacks.
When you’re connected to the internet via a public network (like your local coffee shop) use https:// instead of http:// for websites that you’re going to use a login and password with, like Facebook or Gmail, to encrypt the information and prevent others from seeing it. Most browsers will show a padlock or other icon to show that you’re securely connected. If you’re on a public network and can’t log in using https://, the best option is to wait until you’re back at home.
TIP: Type in a link using https:// (example: https://www.facebook.com) and save it in your bookmark folder. Do this for websites you visit that require a login. It’s easier to get in the habit of clicking a bookmark than it is to type out https:// every time.
E-mail has become such a staple of everyday life that it’s easy to forget that our security can be compromised. Most of the time, malicious attacks via email can be prevented by adopting one habit: Question everything in your Inbox.
Don’t open emails or email attachments from strangers. If you don’t recognize the sender, or if you can’t tell who the sender is by looking at the sender name or subject line in your Inbox, send it straight to the trash.
Even if it’s an e-mail from someone you know, before opening any attachments, read the email carefully. Does the message look authentic? Does it explain the attachment? Were you expecting something from this person? Examine the message header. Does the email address match their name? When in doubt, call, text or send them a separate e-mail to confirm that they sent you an attachment.
Most spam mail is easy to identify. Some of it, however, might look like something from your company’s IT department or your bank, notifying you to follow a link for information. Don’t click anything in these emails. In these cases, the phone is your best answer. Call your bank’s local branch and ask a manager to review your account. Call your IT guy and ask him to explain the email. If you want to visit your bank’s website to check your account, type their address directly into your browser. Just don’t click links or view attachments in the e-mail.
TIP: Some e-mail programs, such as MS Outlook, have “preview panes”. If a piece of spam mail contains an image and your e-mail program loads it, the spammer can track that activity and will know that your email address is still valid. The end result for you? They’ll send you more spam, and they’ll sell your address to other spammers. If you have the option to disable image loading, do so. Otherwise, disable this feature.
If you’ve already been hit, consider using a recent backup of your system files and data to simply revert back to a time when your computer was operating correctly, but with all of your most recent data files included (documents, photos, music, etc.). If you’re not sure whether you’re doing this or you know you’re not and wish you were, contact us to learn how we can establish the safe baseline for you and automate the backup of valuable files on a periodic basic.
Professional computer repair shops will use tools to manually identify rogue entries in your registry and data files and can remove them, replacing as necessary with clean, uninfected files. If you want to attempt to recover from spyware infection or the effects of a virus, try the following freeware utilities. We are providing the complete URL for each utility. Be careful to compare the resulting page with the URL we provided; if they don’t match, you may be the victim of browser redirection.
Generally, a combination of one or more of these great utilities will get you out of trouble. If your computer is not allowing you to download the files or properly access the page, you may need to download it onto a USB memory stick on another computer and transfer it that way.
Understand that we can in no way guarantee the success of these utilities. It is entirely possible that one of them may remove required system files that have been infected and render your computer useless.
Despite your best efforts, a virus or spyware may still slip through. The authors of these malicious programs have become adept at hiding the fact that they are installed on your computer, allowing the programs to disable protections that you already have installed (Windows Firewall, various antivirus programs, etc), posing as valid, legitimate products that are instead designed to part you with your money or personal data and designing the infections to replace themselves as quickly as you remove them. Don’t panic. Don’t rush out and buy an Apple just because you heard they don’t have these issues. Just take the necessary steps.
Buy an external storage device (500GB or more is available starting at $70+)
Create an image of your drive, fully setup with all of your required programs and verified, registered license keys
Copy the image to your external drive.
Utilize the backup software included with the drive or your Windows 7 installation to establish a regular backup schedule of important files, including your documents, music, photos, email, etc. Online backup options are also available.
These steps can also protect you in the event of a simple hardware failure. Eventually, almost every hard drive is going to crash.