One of the saddest things in the entire world is hearing the
words, “I think I’ve been hit by a virus” or “my computer was
destroyed by a virus, can you help me please?”
Every time I hear these words I want to cry – well, actually I
want to scream in frustration and a little bit of anger. You
see, it’s not hard to protect your system from destruction by
any one of the fifty thousand or more viruses out in the wild.
In fact, it’s so simple that it’s pitiful that anyone gets
caught “with their pants down” more than once in his or her
By this time it’s inconceivable that anyone with any contact
with civilization is ignorant of viruses and their destructive
potential. A few years ago you could claim ignorance (what’s a
virus?) but no longer. In these years after “I love you” and
“Melissa”, well, virus attacks appear on the 6 o’clock news at
least once a week and in the newspaper just as often.
That’s one of the reasons why I groan when I hear that someone
has lost their system to a virus attack. They cannot claim that
they didn’t know or didn’t understand. In addition, protection
is so simple and cheap that no one can use the excuse of “it’s
too expensive” or “it’s too difficult”. Sorry, that just does
not hold water.
Look at it this way – if someone is surfing the internet they
must be paying for a connection (say twenty dollars a month) and
they have to have a computer (perhaps a thousand dollars). It’s
hard to accept that they cannot afford another thirty or fifty
bucks for virus protection (in fact, many new computers come
with an antivirus program pre-installed).
All right, preaching aside, what’s the best way to protect your
system from virus attacks? To begin with, assume that you or
someone who uses your computer might make a mistake and plan for
the worst. In other words, make the assumption that if a virus
is received, it will be executed, so make sure the things are
removed or rendered harmless before you see them.
Define and follow a good backup plan – First and foremost,
figure out how you are going to back up your data. Didn’t expect
me to say that, did you? You have to understand that no virus
protection system is perfect. If a virus does get through
somehow, then you must be prepared to restore your data and
files from a backup.
It does not matter if you hand copy your critical files to a
floppy disk every night or if you have the most advanced optical
or tape backup system available. If nothing else, get a cheap
ZIP drive plug it in and use the backup software that comes with
it (you can get this setup for around a hundred bucks).
Don’t even think twice about this – if you don’t have a backup
solution then get one, now. If you are not keeping a backup then
you are living on borrowed time (this also protects you from
system failures, hackers and other dangers as well). ALL good
security plans begin and end with the backup and restore
Choose, install and maintain an antivirus solution – Personally,
I really like the Norton Antivirus program. I’ve installed it in
our office and in my home, and I have not yet found a better
There is far more to an antivirus program than just checking for
viruses. All of them do that. What Norton does that’s different
is very important – it also scans incoming emails for viruses so
they are removed even before you open the message.
Schedule virus updates at least once a week – More importantly,
you can schedule virus updates to occur at regular (weekly)
intervals. This is extremely important. Your virus definitions
MUST BE UPDATED AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK. Otherwise, your protection
slowly loses it’s power to protect your system. This is almost
as bad as not having any protection at all – because you think
you are protected and you are not.
Scan your hard drive as often as possible – Use your virus
scanning program to scan your hard drive for viruses on a
regular basis. I’ve scheduled mine to scan every night while I
sleep (the computer is not doing much else at that time, after
all). This way any viruses that do slip through your defenses
should be caught.
If you run Outlook, then download and install the Outlook
Security patch (unless for some reason you want to use email
scripting, which you probably only need if you are a developer).
This will prevent you or anyone on your computer from
accidentally opening an attachment which is actually a virus.
Install ZoneAlarm Pro – Not only is ZoneAlarm Pro an excellent
firewall, it is also a virus scanner. It actually scans files as
they arrive on your system and tags suspected viruses with a
special file type. This will prevent you from accidentally
opening an email attachment that is a virus.
Subscribe to several newsletters about viruses – It’s important
to become aware of viruses and the associated problems and
risks. My recommendation is to subscribe to the following
newsletters. They are all free and even a quick glance at each
one will help you become more aware of what’s going on.
Symantec AntiVirus Research Center Newsletter
McAfee.Com Dispatch http://dispatch.mcafee.com/default.asp?
Trend Micro Virus Alerts http://www.antivirus.com/subscriptions/
Backing Up Your stuff – Part 1
http://www.internet-tips.net/System/backup00.htm Backup may seem
to be a pain, but it’s one of the most important things that you
can do to protect your system.
Backing up your system is an essential part of your security
scheme http://www.internet-tips.net/Security/Backups.htm Backups
are extremely critical to keep your system secure. If your
system is damaged by a virus or an intruder you have a way to
recover. Remember, however, that you must think through and test
Outlook Security Patch
tm If you run Outlook and you want to protect yourself, you
should install the Outlook security patch.
Products – Norton Antivirus
need antivirus protection for your computer. Norton Antivirus is
by far and away the best solution for the desktop.
Products – ZoneAlarm Pro
Pro is quite possibly the best firewall product for personal
home use that currently exists. Highly recommended.
Viruses http://www.internet-tips.net/Security/Viruses.htm The
most important thing you can do to protect your system is
install a virus checker (also known as an anti-virus program).
These programs will scan your system for viruses and Trojan
horses and delete or repair them. There are several products
including those by McAfee and Norton (Symantec).