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How To Protect Your Computer From Viruses And Spyware
I have been around computers for years. I even teach on Introduction to Computers class at a four-year university. Despite my knowledge of computers, I was not immune to the problems that viruses^ and spyware can do to a computer. My computer was attacked and it was so bad I ended up replacing my hard drive. Does that sound scary to you? If so, I apologize. At the same time, I hope that my experience can benefit you.
While many computer users are familiar with the term virus, not as many understand the term spyware. Simply put, spyware is software that performs certain behaviors such as advertising, collecting personal information, or changing the configuration of your computer, generally without your premission. Here are a few things that can happen if you get spyware on your computer.
* Pop-up advertisements will appear even when you are not on the internet.
* Your home page (the page that comes up when you first open your internet browser) changes all of sudden and you don't know why.
* A new toolbar appears and you can't seem to get rid of it.
* Your computer takes longer than usual to complete certain tasks.
* Your computer crashes a lot when it never used to.
Just reading the above list should be enough to encourage you to read on and do what you can to prevent viruses and spyware from attacking your computer. Below is a list I compiled of things you can do to protect yourself from viruses and/or spyware. Following these suggestions doesn't mean you will never have a problem. However, it should lessen the chance of it happening.
1. Everyone should have good anti-virus software on their computer. This is especially true it you use the internet. I use PC-cillin Internet Security 2006 on my computer. Before that I used Norton's Internet Security. Both are good but only work well if used properly. If you are a beginner computer user, I would recommend Norton over PC-cillin. However, PC-cillin is a good program for those who are more advanced computer users. It requires a little more patience to set up and a better understanding of computers than Norton's does.
2. While it is nice to have Internet Security software, one must make sure it is turned on and that it is updated weekly. New viruses are being created daily and if you don't update your anti-virus software weekly your computer is open to attack by new viruses.
3. Make sure you have a good firewall and that it is turned on. A firewall helps protect your computer from outside attacks. Again, a good Internet Security program such as Norton's and PC-cillin come with a firewall. However, remember they only work if they are turned on.
4. I use two free programs in addition to PC-cillin to give me a little extra protection from spyware. I run these programs once a week to ensure that my computer is free from spyware. The two programs I use are:
SpyBot - Search and Destroy
Both these programs can be downloaded for free at www.downloads.com
5. I use a free program that checks for advertising trackers and lets me get rid of them. You can download a copy of this program at www.downloads.com. The name of this program is:
Lavasoft Ad-Aware SE Personal
There are a few other things I would like to mention concerning viruses and protecting yourself from them.
a. When you receive an email from someone you don't know and it has an attachment. Never open the attachment. Often times these attachments can have viruses in them.
b. If you receive an email from someone you know with an attachment and you weren't expecting it, don't open the attachment. Contact them first to make sure they sent it. Sometimes a virus can send out emails without the person even knowing.
c. Be careful when you are downloading software or programs off the internet. Often spyware software will install during the installation of other software you want such as a music or video file. Whenever you are installing something on your computer, make sure you carefully read all disclosures, including the license agreement and privacy statement. Sometimes the inclusion of unwanted software in a given software installation is documented, but it may appear at the end of a license agreement or privacy statement.
d. Be careful when you use a file from someone else's computer. If someone gives you a disk, even if it is your best friend, run a virus scan on the disk before opening any files. It is possible for the file to have a virus without the person knowing about it.
I hope these tips will prove helpful to you. If you have good protection and exercise caution you have a much better chance of getting through your computer life without the headaches of viruses and spyware. However, remember there is no guarantee that it will never happen to you.
^A computer virus is a program that invades your computer system, hides there, and replicates itself. Viruses spread when you launch an infected application or start up your computer from a disk that has infected system files."
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