Monday, December 13, 2010

8 Tips to Keep Your PC Virus-Free

1.  Install an antivirus program.  No need to spend any money.  I recommend downloading Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE).  MSE will update and run automatically, IF the machine is clean when it is installed.  While you're at it, download Malwarebytes (MBAM).  This program does NOT run in real-time, so you'll have to update it and run it from time to time.  I recommend once a week. Be careful not to have too many antivirus programs on your machine.  Too many antivirus programs may slow your machine down to a crawl OR they may see each other as threats.  Other FREE anti-malware programs rated by Consumer Reports include Avira AntiVir Personal, AVG (Free Edition), and avast! SUPERAntiSpyware was also recommended by a trusted colleague in the IT field.  Again, I suggest you pick one in addition to MBAM.  Don't download all of these freebies onto one machine.

2.  Run antivirus updates and scans at least weekly.  Viruses/malware/spyware are constantly being written and released into the world.  MSE will update and scan automatically (assuming you don't already have a virus that turns it off and prevents it from updating).  Update Malwarebytes and scan your machine AT LEAST once a week.

3.  Keep Windows (operating system) updated.  When that little yellow shield (XP) pops up and tells you updates are ready, click Install.  You can set up Automatic Updates under the Control Panel.

4.  Keep other programs updated.  Programs such as Java, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, etc. should be updated on a regular basis to close vulnerabilities that malware uses to exploit machines.

5.  Do not open OR download suspicious attachments in email.  Repeat, do NOT.  When in doubt, delete the email.  If you feel you MUST open a suspicious attachment, right-click the attachment and Scan with Malwarebytes (assuming you have updated MB in the last week) BEFORE you open it.  While I'm on the subject of email, do not open suspicious links, either.

6. Do not click banner ads or pop-ups.  Ever.  Trust me, you're not going to win an iPad.

7.  Do not take quizzes on or download apps from Facebook.  There is no software that will show you who unfriended you or who is stalking you.  What it MAY do is load some neat keylogging software that will collect information from your computer including your usernames, passwords, and sites visited.

8.   Be wary of Flash/Thumb drives.  The conficker (AKA conflicker) virus is spread through flash drives and USB ports.  You can use MSE to scan and clean flash drives.

Lastly, get in the habit of backing up your files (docs, music, video, etc.) on an external HD, the server, or online to protect your work.  Free online storage can be found at Dropbox (2GB of Dropbox for free), Windows Live SkyDrive (25GB), MozyHome (2GB), and ADrive (50GB).  You can also save files in Google Documents through GMail or a Google account.

I hope this helps!

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