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Guide to Protecting Your Computer from Viruses


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Many people are paranoid about computer viruses and with good reason. Millions of dollars and hundreds of security leaks are propagated annually by these seemingly harmless codes hiding in various forms, from emails to games to download applications.

Basically, a computer virus is a malicious program that impairs or destroys key components of your computer. Viruses are software programs and they can do the same things as any other programs running on your computer. The effect of a virus is dependent on what its programmer wants it to do. Some viruses damage files or slow down your computer, or leak out confidential information. What viruses don’t do is cause physical harm to your computer (like making your monitor explode or melting your hard disk).

They can infect any file (not just the “program files”), even Word and Excel spreadsheet documents. They can even be spread by simple JavaScript or HTML codes on any website. The code is usually in an “.exe” form or a “.doc” file that the computer will try to open. However, a virus needs to be “activated” to take effect, hence pure data files (like pictures, sounds, or graphics that end in .gif or .mp3) are safe.

A virus does not target a few users alone; it aims to replicate itself by infecting key executable files in your hard disk and sending copies of itself out to your contacts. It usually does all these without the user’s knowledge or intention. Viruses spread by infecting the programs within one computer or infecting other computers on a network. When files containing the virus are shared, via documents or email, the virus starts the infectious cycles all over again.

How do you protect your computer and your network from being infected? While there are no absolute ways to totally eliminate your computer from virus attacks, there are a few sensible guidelines that will render your computer relatively safe from these malicious codes.

First, always treat files or email with an executable code with caution. Run a virus scan on the file first before opening the attachment or the .exe file. If you receive an unexpected executable file via email, delete it unless you are sure of the content.

Second, disable the feature on your email that automatically opens and runs executable files that it receives. Third, invest in good antivirus software from a reputable and well-reviewed company. Run this regularly and update it at least twice a week because new viruses do come out every day! If you can install a scanner software that can check for viruses every time you start your computer, all the better. Fourth, refrain from accepting executable files and programs from chat sessions, as most users get viruses this way. Make sure you back up your hard drive because some viruses can completely erase these in less than a minute.

If you are really worried about traditional viruses, you may want to change your operating system to something like UNIX. It is also best to buy software from CD’s instead of downloading them from the net, because viruses can infect CD files.

Michael Russell - EzineArticles Expert Author

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Computer Training.

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  • Posted On December 22, 2006
  • Published articles 283513

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