In the last year or so,
there has been a dramatic increase in computers being infected
by malicious spyware and viruses. The following five steps should
be taken to protect your PC from infection.
1) Run a good Anti-Virus program, which means
keeping it updated for new viruses.
are free Anti-Virus programs that do a good job, such as AVG,
There are also free online scans available, such
as the one found here.
These tools are handy if a virus has kiboshed the Anti-Virus program
on your computer (sometimes because it wasn't kept updated). If the online
scan handles your problem, your original Anti-Virus program should
work again, so you can update it.
Keep in mind no anti-virus program is perfect for
finding viruses. It is best to use a combination of online virus scanners, your computer antivirus and free spyware scanners that also catch viruses and trojans (which we'll come to in a bit).
2) Do not install any software from the Internet
without adequately researching it.
Type 'spyware' after the name of the program you
might wish to install using Google Search Engine (available
as the first choice here
) and check a few entries on the first couple pages of search
returns for opinions on any spyware that might be in the
Be aware that some programs
that claim to protect your PC from spyware, or to speed it up
etc. actually contain spyware, that will slow your PC down,
among other things.
You can also type the word 'hoax' in Google, with
an appropriate keyword for any e-mail warning you might receive
about a particular virus in order to prevent spreading false warnings.
Such hoaxes have been considered as a virus, with the computer
user taking the place of the usual automated infection process.
Anti-virus companies will never send out mass e-mailings, although
some spammers go so far as to fake the look of the anti-virus
maker's home page. Fortunately, such hoaxes are dying out.
3) Run a good firewall.
Zone Labs has a good free one available here.
Pay attention during the install so that
you choose the free version, and not the 30 day trial version
of Zone Alarm Pro (unless you feel you need the extra features
and are willing to pay for them). The free Zone Alarm provides
firewall services better than many priced firewalls.
4) Regularly install Windows Updates to patch
up vulnerabilities in Microsoft products.
Use the Google search engine to find out how to
access your Windows Update, if the shortcut has been removed from
your start menu. The method will vary depending on your operating
system. Again, just think of a few key words, including your operating
system (i.e. Windows 98 or Windows 2000, Windows XP or Vista to describe
your problem and type it into Google.
5) Periodically Scan with spyware busters.
The above 4 points should protect you from spyware
and viruses that could cripple your PC. However, during everyday
surfing, your PC will pick up spyware.
To get rid of less damaging spyware, such as data
miners, there are two good free programs that work well in tandem.
Adaware is available here,
and Spybot is available here.
You can also get the Pro version of Adaware, or make a donation
to Spybot, to help support these initatives.
Like your anti-virus, these tools should be updated
before scanning in order to be optimally effective.
If you follow the suggestions above, you could still
get infected by a virus not yet in the updated virus databases
etc, but this is extremely unlikely. Better to worry about lightning
If your computer is already badly infected, the
above tools might fix it. However, once the damage is done, it
is quite possible you might have to dig deeper.
There are many tools for this. Good key words will find them. Manual adjustment of the computer registry and/or
startup functions will still be necessary where there are very bad infections. In a worst case scenario, it might be simpler to reformat
your PC than to hunt down all the spyware and virus problems in
a PC which has been badly compromised. If you have data to backup, scan it good, with more than one tool, before you put it back on your re-formatted PC.
The bottom line here is an ounce of prevention
is worth a pound of cure, and that there are free versions of
all the tools you need to set up a more than adequate defence
for the average computer.