The beginners guide to viruses, spyware and other bad things you've heard about
If you’ve been using your computer for a while then you will no doubt have read about all the nasty things out there that have it in for your computer, and more importantly for you. The good news is that all these stories are extreme examples and if you follow a few simple rules are very unlikely to happen to you. This article will hopefully help you to understand what you can do to safeguard your computer understand all the jargon that exists within this area and make sure you are always one step ahead of any potential threats out there.
I’m confused – what do all these terms mean?
The many terms such as virus and malware refer to malicious software that tries to access information on your computer without your consent. Once this software has access to your computer, it can do a variety of things and in the unlikely event that you are infected, they are designed to be especially tricky to get rid of. But always remember all viruses and other issues can always be removed, it just sometimes takes the skill of a trained technician to make sure the infection is fully removed. Just remember it is always easier to avoid it in the first place, than to remove.
- Viruses & Malware - These are programs that when run, have the ability to self-replicate by infecting other programs and files on your computer. Just like a real life virus you catch as a person, hence the name. Commonly they will attempt to do things like erasing all your pictures, music and documents, displaying a joke in a pop-up box whilst you’re working, or doing nothing at all except to replicate itself because it can and slow down your computer. These types of infections tend to be localised to your computer and do not have the ability to spread to another computer on their own.
- Spyware – These are programs that monitor your activity or information on your computer and send that information to a remote computer without your knowledge. This could include information about your surfing habits, or in extreme cases your bank account details or passwords!
- Worm – A program that when run, has the ability to spread to other computers on its own using either the email addresses found on your computer or by using the internet to infect a remote computer.
- Trojan – A program that has been designed to appear innocent but has been intentionally designed to cause some malicious activity or to provide a back door to your system often describing itself as a free offer or program for you to use. As the saying goes if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Hijackers – A program that attempts to hijack certain Internet functions like redirecting your start page in your browser or changing your search program, redirecting search queries to a undesired search engine and replacing search results with their own information.
- Adware – A program that generates pop-ups on your computer or displays advertisements. It is important to note that not all adware programs are necessarily considered malicious. There are many legitimate programs that are given for free that display ads in their programs in order to generate revenue. As long as this information is provided up front and you agreed to install them as the price for the free software then they are generally safe to be used, if a little annoying.
- Firewall – is a software program included in a basic version with Windows and from paid providers such as Norton and McAfee. The firewall sits between your computer and the internet, providing a wall through which unwanted information is blocked and prevents access to your computer whilst connected to the internet, stopping unwanted websites and software form gaining access to your computer.
So how do I protect myself?
Prevention is always better than the cure. So it’s a good idea to make sure that you are informed about the best ways to keep your computer safe. Here are a few simple rules.
Educate yourself about what you should and should not view on the internet.
The majority of people who get infected were infected because they were tricked into visiting an unscrupulous website or by clicking on things they should not. Here are some things you should never do:
- Never open attachments from someone that you do not know. Especially from unsolicited emails.
- Never open email attachments that you did not request or expect.
- If you visit a site and a popup appears saying that your computer is unsafe, ignore it! These are just gimmicks that are used to make you click on the ad which can then potentially install an unwanted virus.
- When you you go to a website and a popup occurs, many times they will make them look like a normal Windows message box in order to trick you into clicking on them. Instead just close them by always clicking on the X, in the top right hand corner not on any buttons.
- Do not visit sites offering free software or videos that you would normally have to pay for. These are almost always a surefire way to get yourself infected.
- Read the install agreements and the on screen prompts for any software that you install. Many free products are often offered with adware and other unwanted programs that you DO NOT want on your computer. Often they ask you during the install if you want these additions, so don’t just simply click next - always read what you are agreeing too.
Use anti-virus software
It is important that you have antivirus software running on your machine. This software will monitor all files that you try and access, including programs, attachments in emails and will alert you if they are suspicious. Don’t forget to update the software frequently. Most have an automatic update feature, by which they will periodically check the internet for updates and update themselves with the latest threats. There are plenty of excellent solutions out there, including free ones like AVG Free, Avast and Microsoft - plus commercial paid ones like Norton, McAfee and Kaspersky.
Keep your operating system up to date
Your operating system provider (Microsoft, Apple, etc) will periodically issue patches that you should deploy on your computer. These will contain the latest protection in the operating system, Windows users can go to Windows Update
Make sure that you are running a firewall
If you are running Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows XP Service Pack 2 or beyond, your firewall is enabled by default. And is often sold as part of many anti virus software products in the "internet security" editions.
Oh no, I think I have a problem. What do I do now?
Contact us or call us on 0800 880 6609 and we will have everything back to normal in no time.