The best way to guard yourself from something is to educate yourself on it. In order to avoid catching a computer virus, you need to know what one is. A computer virus, defined by Business Dictionary, is a small but insidious piece of programming-code that attacks computers and network systems through ‘contaminated’ data files, and are introduced into a system via disks or internet. They are designed to attach themselves to computer operating systems and automatically replicate themselves to spread. The most common types of viruses are worm and trojan horse. A worm is a computer code that spreads without user interaction, and commonly begins as an e-mail attachment that infects a computer once opened. A trojan horse is a software program that hides inside other programs. These are spread by worms.
Unfortunately, these terrible little viruses are easier to get then one would think. More often than not, it is the user’s fault. One of the most common ways a computer becomes infected is because the user accepts what’s on their screen without reading through the content before proceeding.
- Example: Many times when surfing the Internet, an advertisement or window will appear that says your computer is infected or a specific plug-in is required, and without hesitation you accept the prompt.
Another common way that a virus invades your computer is by opening e-mail attachments when you don’t know what they are. As a general rule, never open an email attachment you were not expecting to receive, because many times attachments can carry infected codes. Even though the e-mail may be from a co-worker, friend or relative, be cautious when downloading or opening attachments.
As well as avoiding downloading e-mail attachments, do not insert a free disc or thumb drive that is laying around into your computer. It may be free, but the virus attached to it will cost you. A virus can move from a computer to a disc or drive, and is a very common move by hackers, because most people will jump at the opportunity for something free.
- Note: The same rule applies to any networked drive or computer. If another computer has the right of access to your computer or a drive accessible by your computer, a virus can move between computers on a network.
As annoying as updates can be, they can save you from a virus. Not running the latest updates leaves an opening for viruses to enter. Keeping your operating system and programs up to date is the best safeguard to detect viruses. Along with updating your system, it would be wise to download an antivirus, spyware or malware protection program. These kinds of systems help prevent viruses and infections along with removing any existing viruses. Make sure to run these scans daily.
Just like anything in life, be cautious and smart when it comes to your computer. If you have a question about an e-mail or program ask the nearest IT professional or go ahead and delete it. It is better to be safe than sorry.
By: Christa Vandenburgh