Protecting Yourself Against Viruses
Guarding your computer against digital invaders
Your computer can fall victim to many destructive events:
power surges, coffee spills, a failed hard drive or worse. But your computer is
also susceptible to a digital invader called a virus.
A virus is a program that attaches itself to another program and spreads
from one file to another, causing varying degrees of damage. You may not even
notice some viruses, but malicious ones can erase your data files, corrupt your
applications, cause your computer to crash, and in certain cases, render your
hard drive completely useless.
Viruses can be transmitted via email attachments, so monitor your in-box for
suspicious messages. If you don't know the person who sent you a message, don't
open any attachment that came with it.
You can't get a virus from simply opening an email message, but your email
client may be configured to automatically open attachments, in which case you
should disable that feature. Be especially aware of attachments with the
suffixes .exe or .com. If you activate this type of virus, it can attack
executable files, overwrite code and cause irrevocable damage.
Beyond keeping a watchful eye on your incoming email, you should also be
careful about using removable media, especially from unknown sources. Floppy
disks, Zip disks and CD-ROMs can also transmit viruses.
Without a doubt, the best way to protect yourself against viruses is to
install antivirus software. These utilities will scan for many types of viruses
and keep watch over your system files, boot files and data files.
Set your virus program to run a basic startup scan every time you turn on
your computer and a full system scan every few weeks. Most antivirus utilities
let you either set an automatic schedule for a full scan or do it manually. If
the utility finds a virus, it alerts you and tries to disinfect the file. If
the file can't be disinfected, you'll probably have to delete it.
It's also important to download updates to your virus software so that it
will recognize and protect you against the latest viruses. Keeping your
antivirus software up to date greatly reduces the chances that you'll have to
delete any files.