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Where to find technical help for software, viruses and/or other threats I might not even know exist? Where can I get more information about avoiding and protecting me from software/security threats?

Posted on May 14, 2011
Protection from Viruses and Other Malware
 
A virus is a computer program that reproduces itself and infects more computers. It contains some form of executable code that carries a program that does something you don’t want. Other threats are called malware, which is used as a general term for malicious or unwanted software, including adware.
 
New viruses and malware threats are being developed all the time. Viruses and malware can get into your computer in several different ways … and the easiest way for them is for you to invite them in. How do you protect your computer and your personal information from known and unknown threats?
 
To protect yourself, even from viruses that have not been written or released yet, there are several things you can do.
 
Be proactive. Don't wait for viruses or other malware to attack your computer and leave your personal information vulnerable to misuse. You can take steps to protect your computer, your personal information, and your identity without knowing the details of what a hacker or a virus, a phisher, or an email scam will try and do to your computer.
 
Security and Antivirus Software
 
Known Problems

Many reputable companies provide computer security and antivirus software. Find a dependable and well rated antivirus application, and use it. Reputable antivirus and computer security software deal with the problem of viruses and malware using several approaches. Antivirus applications have dictionaries of “signatures” of known viruses, malware and adware, Trojan horses, and worms, and they scan everything that comes into your computer to make sure there are no matches. If a match is found, the code is quarantined, so it cannot execute itself on your computer. They have automatic updates to this so that whenever a new virus or other form of malware is identified, your computer is provided with the information to block it. Good security or antivirus software updates at least daily, and some update multiple times a day.
 
New and Unknown Threats

They also look for previously unknown threats. Many known viruses change regularly in an attempt to slip past the screening process, but antiviral software looks for certain types of patterns or signatures which match up with known threats. If a known virus has a partial change in its code, or signature, antivirus software can pick out the new variant by its resemblance to the original. It looks for things that have a similar code pattern or partly match known threats. As well, security software providers use heuristic methods to find unknown malicious software. They look at the behavior of code to see if it is acting in a way that has proven dangerous before. When a piece of code looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, the software concludes it is a duck! And blocks it from executing any code. As well, it sends back the information on the suspect duck to the parent company, who study it to see if it is in fact malicious. If it is, they find ways to remove it and block the code from executing, and add the new threat to the latest database they send to their customers. While this sometimes causes false positives, it blocks new and unknown viruses or malware that might otherwise infect your computer.
 
Firewalls

Use a firewall between the Internet and your computer. There are different types of firewalls available, and the most common operating system, Windows, comes with a firewall. Devices such as routers can also act as firewalls.
 
Disable Auto Play

Make sure your computer does not activate “Auto Play” when it comes across input or new content for your computer. Rather than letting any program start whenever you attach a flash drive to your computer, turn off Auto Play in your control panel. Put all the settings for different media and software to “Take no action” or “Ask me every time,” which will put control in your hands.
 
Update Your Applications

Keep all of your applications up to date. Hackers exploit known vulnerabilities in operating systems, browsers and many other applications such as email and PDF files. Many applications come with a built-in utility which can be set to either inform you when an update is available, or install it, depending on your preferences. If you are not in the habit of regularly installing updates for applications, you will stay better protected if you have automatic updates. Another option is to be prompted when an update is available, and you can then decide whether to install it at the time, or have it remind you later.
 
Think Before You Click

Be careful what you click on. Even a link that says “unsubscribe me from this email list” can be a way for a malicious website to connect to your computer and download malware. If you download programs from the Internet, look for verified signatures and well-known names. Don’t ever do any financial transaction over the Internet unless you can see that the web address is secure (https://) and you see a closed lock icon on the status bar. When a link in an email is supposed to take you to a bank, hover over the link to see what address is shown. If it is not the correct address, do not click the link.
 
Vulnerable Browsers

Many people complain that Microsoft Windows and Microsoft's browser, IE, are particularly vulnerable to infection. Actually, this is not true. What happens is hackers creating malicious software want it to affect the most people possible and Windows and IE have the largest share of the market. Nowhere near as many viruses are designed for browsers like Opera or Google Chrome, because many fewer people use those browsers. Because Windows OS, and then Mac OS, are the operating systems with the largest market share, they are the natural targets for the people who create malicious software such as viruses.
 
Conclusion

If you follow these suggestions, you are making the best effort to ensure your computer will be protected, even from threats that have not been created yet.


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