Computer Virus Protection

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I wish it were so simple: just put a tiny rubber condom on the ethernet plug and voila--my computer would be safe from computer viruses. Over the last week I've been struggling with restoring data and software and productivity lost by a number trojan viruses that struck our system. By the way, isn't the name of the virus class ironic? TROJAN! When Trojan is by far the most popular brand of condoms meant to protect you? But I digress.

In any case, I've never had a virus before. I've always kept my home computer virus protection and firewall software up to date. But some times in a corporate environment, things can get a little behind. So I wanted to share with you some of the things I've learned to help protect you.

1) Always, always, always keep your virus protection software up to date with the latest version of the software, and always, always, always subscribe to the latest virus definitions. DO NOT under any circumstances, no matter how much it costs, let your virus definitions and software versions become out-dated. That's how my work computer got infected--not that we let our virus update subscription lapse, but because we didn't install the latest version of the anti-virus software. Somehow, somewhere, our software was upgraded to version 7.0 and then to version 8.0, but on most of our work computers, version 6.0 was running and that left all computers connected to the internet vulnerable, including mine.

2) Be careful of adding toolbars to your browsers. Most toolbar installations carry some form of cookie, spyware, or adware that compromises the security features of your browser. It is very easy for those writing malicious virus code to get to your browser and to your computer through the vulnerabilities of toolbars.

3) Popups are not your friend. Clicking on a popup can initiate the download of executable files onto your computer. Some of these even self-install. If you come across a warning dialog box on any website that you visit that pops up and tells you that your computer is infected or that your virus definitions are out of date or your performance is slow and offers you a fast and easy solution, DO NOT fall for it. And if after you try and close the window but it keeps re-opening anyway, it's probably too late and you have been infected. Run your full virus scan immediately or call the Geek Squad.

4) JPEGs can spread viruses. I encourage you all to read this PC World article. This article is several years old. Be careful when copying or downloading web graphics from sites that you don't know. No file should be considered safe until it is scanned by the lastest anti-virus software with the latest anti-virus definitions.

5) Shareware. You get what you pay for folks. Only download shareware from trusted sites. Plugins and code from your friend down the street might be cool, but they could also be virus bait. Not only might they be vulnerable to virus attacks, they might have viruses and spyware included in them. This is especially important for the blogging community that likes to try out cool widgets and the latest plug-ins on their wordpress and blogger blogs.

6) Avoid the bandwagon. Those of us in the blogosphere like to be at the forefront of new software, technology and innovation. Avoid the latest releases and the coolest new features if they are in beta testing. Wait until the software has been out there, tried, tested, AND patched before you update your system.

7) Research. In order to protect yourself and your hardware and your dollars, you have to know what the threats are, what the level of risk is, and what the remedies are. Don't trust any one source for your information. Read several newspapers, magazine and PC-oriented websites. Stay up to date. If you're going to play in the sandbox, you gotta find a way to keep the sand out of your shorts.

Thanks for reading.

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37 comments:

crazy working mom said...

Very good advice! I loved the photo. :)

Thanks for posting. Have a great weekend.

November 21, 2008 2:52 PM
Ken Armstrong said...

Sorry you had trouble dude, good post, good sense.

I've tried that chewing gum in your picture, blows great bubbles, tastes poor though :)

November 21, 2008 6:29 PM
Mike Golch said...

actually the trojan coms from thtrojan hourse tha was brought into a compound that held ememy soldiers in side and the compound was destroyed. thus the viruses are called torjans simply because they masquared as a harmless email of a game download ect..

November 22, 2008 1:06 PM
Matthew S. Urdan said...

Thanks Mike! I am quite familiar with the origin of the Trojan Horse from the Illiad! I was just turning a phrase with poetic license. And in this case, no game downloading or deliberate downloading of any file occurred--our IT department is pretty sure it came in through the EntreCard toolbar.

November 22, 2008 1:10 PM
Alan Gay and Straight said...

Seems to be a busy week for bugs. I actually went off topic for my blog to write about a similar problem.

November 22, 2008 5:12 PM
hope said...

When in doubt, I turn to www.cnet.com and check out their reviews, especially for "shareware".

Sorry you had problems. Maybe it's safer for me to be technically challenged. ;)

November 22, 2008 5:40 PM
Roxy's Best Of... said...

Matt,
Sorry to hear about your virus problems...something we've all been through, so thanks for the tips as well. Glad you could still find humor in your situation.
Roxy

November 22, 2008 6:27 PM
Amy Lilley Designs said...

the photo alone is worth is all...very good info!!!...ahhhh the continued wonders of modern technology.....

November 22, 2008 7:10 PM
April said...

The picture was awesome. So funny and creative.

November 22, 2008 10:32 PM
Jena Isle said...

I was laughing at Ken's comment, really Ken...lol.

I didn't know even jpeg could contain virus. Encoded into the pic? They're so ingenious, these troublemakers.

Glad you have recovered. Thanks for the useful pointers, now I'm upgrading mine.

November 22, 2008 11:49 PM
Justin said...

These are some really good tips! Especially about being careful with adding toolbars. I'm convinced that 90% of toolbars are just full of spyware, lol.

Also I thought I would add that you don't always have to pay for anti virus protection. I have kept my computer spyware and virus free for many years. All of this without spending a dime. Ad-Aware, AVG Anti Virus, and SpywareBlaster are all great programs for getting rid of Spyware/Viruses or preventing it from getting on your computer. There is a guide up on my blog with some other tips as well. Stay safe!

November 23, 2008 8:05 AM
LadyJava said...

hahhah... cute picture.. I wish it was that easy too!

Great tips by the way...

Happy Sunday Matt!

November 23, 2008 8:12 AM
Henson Ray said...

Great advice. I had a major virus take over my work computer recently, and it kept opening up webpages one after another...I couldn't keep up with closing them, they just kept multiplying...so I finally had to shut down and have the IT clean it for me...Thank God Macs aren't as susceptible to viruses...as that's what I mostly use.

November 23, 2008 9:54 AM
Empty Streets said...

Hmmm that photo sure catches attention hehehe but just to share I use Avast home edition which is a free ware antivirus and they do a pretty good job at protecting my Vista lappy. I got it from filehippo.com and been using it for over a year now and it has always kept me content not to mention safe :)

November 23, 2008 11:07 AM
Matthew S. Urdan said...

All, thanks for the tips, the commiseration, the sympathy and the laughs! It seems we've all been there!

I'm glad the photo caught everyone's eye and caused a smile or a laugh or two.

Henson, yeah, that was happening to me too, IE was just opening on it's own and opening all kinds of windows. It wasn't pretty. There was other stuff going on too.

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