Avoiding Viruses & Malware!

First – a simple definition of what malware and viruses are.

  • Definition:  Malware and viruses can be defined as malicious software directed at your computer. Malware is actually a portmanteau of those two words.
  • Difference between virus and malware is that viruses can spread to other computers via networking, flashdrives, etc.  Sage advice – don’t go putting your flashdrives into computers you don’t know!

Viruses:

  • Viruses can now basically be considered Modern Day Warfare.
  • Take, for example, the Iran Nuclear Facility a few weeks back – ‘Someone’ injected a virus into the system that spread through all the computers and not only shut down progress, but also set it back months.

Malware, a couple examples:

  • Spyware:  Software out there gathering all your personal information covertly. Passwords, Internet usage,
  • Scareware:  Scam Software sold to consumers via certain unethical marketing practices.

What can you do?

  1. PAID antivirus/antispyware. We highly recommend NOD32 from www.eset.com. The more popular AV programs that you hear about, or that come with your computer when you buy it, are the ones that hackers attack first.
  2. Keep your Windows or Mac updated with the latest patches. Microsoft puts out patches for its programs on the 2nd Tuesday of each month and many PCs are automatically updated – it is worth double-checking that yours is too!  Go to control panels, automatic updates and make sure yours is turned on.  Then leave your PC on overnight – you’ll see a message in the morning to tell you it’s been it has been updated.
  3. Make sure you are behind a good Firewall – and not just your internet provider’s modem.  The majority of those Firewalls have a list of sites that are ‘bad’ and protect only against those.  You need a Firewall that has SPI – Stateful Packet Inspection.  This looks at individual ‘packets’ of info on a site and inspects them daily, with current information.
  4. Practice safe searching. Don’t search on current events, news or trends.  A search term of ‘Beatrice’s Pretzel Hat’ or ‘Brooklyn Decker’ is prime target for attack. Go to reputable pages such as www.cnn.com or www.minnesota.publicradio.org to view articles.
  5. Read the URL backwards! How many of you do searches and at the results page only look at the title and the description – but not the URL?  www.cnn.com – good. www.cnn.com.cn -  .cn means China – everything to the left of .cn is anybody’s guess & not what it appears to be. DO NOT PROCEED to click on it. You can’t always trust the link at the bottom either – scroll over the link to verify. Where it is bringing you will pop up in the lower left hand corner of your window.

This is just the basics, folks, in it’s simplest form so everyone can understand.  However, just like the flu shot you get, it doesn’t mean you will not get any viruses, but it is a step in the right direction!  Just wash your hands often and hope for the best.   Now go out there and practice safe computing!

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