Owning a Tourism Business is awesome

3 May 2007

How to Keep Keep Your Computer Virus-free

We have just had a very bad week here in Fiji with viruses and Trojans running riot through organizations networks. It appears that we are getting on average 10 emails each a day with threats attached. In light of this I have assembled a run down of what you should have in regards to Anti-Virus software. (we will address spy ware and Trojans specifically later).

It sounds amazing but somewhere out there in the world are malicious programmers working to dream up new computer viruses and the likes. Eugene Kaspersky, (of Kaspersky Lab Virus Research), in a November 23, 2005 article posted in Security News, said, "The number of new viruses and Trojans is now increasing every day by a few hundred. (Our) virus lab receives between 200 and 300 new samples a day."

The few really bad ones we all get to hear about. The majority are quiet and anonymous like white ants, often doing much damage before they are detected. Like biological viruses, their effects run the spectrum from mostly benign to potentially terminal to their unwilling and unknowing hosts. Also as in biological viruses, there are essentially two different approaches to dealing with them:

  • Prevention
  • Cure
Preventing a virus infection begins with guarding all the portals of contact.

Never open suspicious e-mails or attachments without scanning them first.

Damn near all anti-virus programs have a right-click option to scan for viruses, which makes scanning too easy to not do. Similarly, when you download software, eBooks or ANYTHING, always save to a file, then scan the file before opening. If you bring in data or software by USB Keytag, CD or other portable media, the same rule applies; scan it first! Do it manually to be sure.

A good firewall (ZoneAlarm is the one I use) can help somewhat in keeping viruses at bay, but there are too many ways to hide them in regular data or software transfers for a firewall to catch all of them. A firewall can help, but don't rely on that alone.

Benjamin Franklin once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." However, sooner or later, some viruses are going to get through your defenses somehow, and you will need to turn to cures.

If you should somehow get infected by a really bad virus, you could lose most of your files before you know that there is a problem! The first step to enable cures is to prepare well in advance, positioning and backing up your files for easy recovery.
Set up your computer with another small hard drive (10-40GB) for your C: drive and a much larger hard drive for all your data. My advice is to use your C: drive for programs only. Set up another say D: drive for all your data.
Keep copies of your software purchases, their receipts, registration and activation codes and setup info in a file on your data drive, D:. You can always download the software again, if you can give the seller your purchase info to show that you already bought it.

Almost all virus infections will be in the program section of the C: drive, so scan it daily. All anti-virus program will allow you to shedule this at some time during the day. This won't take much time since you have arranged for it to be relatively small. I do mine in the morning first thing. I turn on my PC, let AVG do its thing while I make a cup of coffee. It takes 7 minutes for me (and I have a LOT of programs).
Scan your (larger) data drive, D:, once or twice a week. Again schedule this for a time when you won't be there.

You should still back up your data files frequently. If you cannot backup everything, at least backup the crucial information that would be difficult or impossible to replace. The simplest way is to have a removable hard drive. As this is only gogin to hold data files, it is unlikely to harbour nasty viruses (but not impossible).
CD and DVD burners are another good way to do this backup. Because of a couple of bad hits we've had in the past 10 years I do both! (And the DVD-R backups are stored at a friend's house incase we have an office fire)

Finally, you will need a good anti-virus program to go after the viruses and either quarantine or (preferably) destroy them. There are many anti-virus solutions being touted and hyped out there. Some are good, most are not. Here is how to find the good ones:

1. Look for programs that offer both active and passive protection.
Active protection means that part of the program remains memory-resident, actively watching for potential incoming viruses. When they detect a virus they can sound an alarm and give you a series of options for dealing with it. Passive or on-demand protection will let you ask for a scan of specified areas when you want it, but it waits for you to ask.

2. Select your anti-virus software based on the recommendations of independent testing agencies.
Checkmark (by westcoastlabs.org), AV-test.org and PC World magazine are among the most respected independent testers of anti-virus software. For ratings of anti-trojan software, check with Anti-trojan - Forum. Use more than one anti-virus and anti-trojan program. Very few detect all problems, but what one program misses, another may find and defeat.

3. Keep your anti-virus programs up to date.
There is a running gun battle going on between virus writer-disseminators and virus catch-and-destroy experts. New viruses are found; new anti-virus program patches to find and destroy them are usually ready within hours or days. Until your software is updated, you are still vulnerable to the new viruses.

In addition to using anti-virus software on your personal computer, consider using an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or e-mail service that includes server-side anti-virus and spam e-mail filtering as a third layer of protection.

Finally, be careful, get good software, run it often and update it frequently... and stay alert to new developments! This struggle between new viruses and better anti-virus software is ongoing, developing rapidly and will NEVER end!

1 comment:

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