What steps can I take to safeguard myself against viruses?
- Beware email attachments!
Many viruses spread by sending themselves as email attachments - as soon as you open the attachment, you have the virus. Since these viruses email themselves from infected computers, most of the time the email containing the virus will come from someone you know and trust, who is unknowingly sending the virus out. Never open an email attachment unless you're sure the person really meant to send it to you! A couple ways to check this are:
- Look for a personal message. Viruses don't know anything personal about you, so if the message mentions your kids by name, or talks about something you and the sender did together last week, it's probably ok. If it just says something general like "Take a look at the attachment", or "I hope you like this file" don't open the attachment! Just delete the message.
- Check with the sender. If you're not sure about an attachment, send a message back to the person asking if they really meant to send it. If they write back that they did, it's ok. If not, your message may alert them that they have a virus.
- Use anti-virus software.
The two top kinds of anti-virus software are Norton Anti-Virus and McAfee VirusScan. Norton is generally considered to be the best. McAfee VirusScan Online is also available; however, it does much of its work via an internet connection. This makes it less effective if you don't have a high speed connection, or don't spend a lot of time online.
- Keep your virus definitions up-to-date!
This cannot be emphasized enough. You should update your virus definitions at least twice a month. The virus definitions tell your anti-virus software how to recognize viruses so it can prevent them from infecting your system. Experts estimate that 10-15 new viruses come out every day - if your definitions are out-of-date, your software won't recognize recent viruses, leaving you vulnerable. To update your definitions:
- In Norton Anti-Virus - Start Norton Anti-virus and click on the "LiveUpdate" button. You will need to be connected to the Internet.
- In McAfee VirusScan - Start McAfee VirusScan and click on the "Update" button. You will need to be connected to the Internet.
- Keep up on your Windows Updates.
Some viruses spread by taking advantage of security holes in your web browser or in Windows. These holes can be fixed by downloading and installing your Windows Updates and by downloading and installing the latest version of Internet Explorer. On most versions of Windows, you can click on [Windows Update] from your Start menu to update Windows. In Windows XP, click [Start], [All Programs], [Windows Update].