Ten steps to avoid virus infection – and greatly reduce the chances of being infected. No antivirus software is 100% effective at preventing virus infections so, the more viruses your computer encounters, the more likely it is that at least one virus will ‘get through’ and infect it.
Viruses can stop your antivirus software from working and then automatically download more viruses – so once you are infected, you may quickly be infected by other viruses, making it much more difficult to remove them all.
Use the following 10 steps to prevent you encountering many viruses, thereby greatly reducing the chances of becoming infected:
2. Keep Internet Explorer (IE) or other web browsers (e.g. Firefox, Chrome) up to date – the majority of viruses come from visiting infected websites so it is crucial to apply all security fices for your browser. If there is a new version then upgrade to it – see our article on the IE9 and Firefox for recommendations specific to your version of Windows.
3. Keep other programs up to date – especially those commonly used by websites e.g. Adobe Reader (PDF files), Adobe Flash Player (streaming video), Adobe Shockwave Player (animations/games) and Oracle Java (business apps/games). Because such programs are used widely in webpages they can present a security risk – new versions are usually released every month or so to block new security holes.
4. If you use Microsoft Office, install the latest Office Service Pack and Office Updates. You can check manually for updates for your version of Office from the Microsoft Update site here. If you followed our article on LibreOffice – the excellent free alternative to Microsoft Office, the option to automatically check for updates was selected by default when you installed the program. Update it when LibreOffice advises there is a new version available.
5. Use a good antivirus software product – a paid suite like Kaspersky/Norton Internet Security provides better protection than a free antivirus like AVG/Avast. Don’t forget to renew or replace your paid antivirus when it expires (usually after a year, but may be only 1 or 2 months for trial versions supplied free with a new computer). If it is not renewed, you are no longer be protected against viruses and are wide open to virus attack.
6. Practise ‘safe searching’ – we recommend using the excellent Web Of Trust (WOT) program that we reviewed in browsing the web safely with WOT. Some antivirus software may offer a similar feature of warning flags next to each search result but we have yet to see a system that works better than WOT.
7. Avoid ‘peer to peer’ file sharing programs (e.g. Bearshare/Limewire) and Torrent programs (e.g. uTorrent) to download files unless you are certain of the source and security of the file. Apart from the questionable legality of downloading possibly copyrighted films and music, many of the files may be infected by viruses. Using these programs is one of the most common ways we see computers being infected.
8. Avoid ‘adult sites’ or downloading ‘adult’ material you mucky pup Seriously, searches for adult content are still a common source of viruses – visiting sites full of naughty videos is a bit like ‘visiting’ hundreds of partners in real life – you will be infected sooner or later… This is the most common way we see computers being infected.
9. Avoid downloading free programs/toolbars/system utility programs from unknown websites. Apart from the fact that too many programs can seriously slow down your computer, they may be virus infected or scams to sell you a commercial version. If unsure, Google is your friend – look up the program/site and see what others say about it. For example, we frequently recommend programs like Ccleaner to delete temporary files but even the quickest research will show that this is a popular program with an excellent track record that is considered very safe to use.
10. Avoid opening email attachments or website links from people you do not know as they may contain viruses – especially if they are promising something like pictures of Angelina Jolie naked or free viagra! Common sense required here but it is surprising how many people still get caught out and blindly click on whatever comes into their mailbox…
Hopefully, following these 10 steps will prevent you encountering too many viruses – and those you do come across will be stopped in their tracks by the up to date security measures.
However, if you ever do become infected by a virus, disconnect from the internet and remove the virus as soon as possible – the longer you wait the more likely you are to become swamped by many more viruses, making removal much harder.