Viruses…the Computer Kind

Remember when we only had to worry about viruses that you caught when someone sneezed on you? Those viruses might put you out of commission for a couple days, but a computer virus may affect your work, your mood, and your pocket book.

What is a computer virus?
A computer virus is basically a self-replicating program that installs itself on your computer without you approving or often knowing about the installation.
What do viruses do?

A virus may have many harmful effects on your computer. The virus may erase programs or other information on your hard drive, steal private information, spam your contacts, put advertisements on your screen, install toolbars, etc.

How to I protect myself against viruses?
To protect yourself against viruses, start with a good antivirus program or a combination of programs to make it harder for these viruses to attack your computer. Once these programs are installed, you need to run them regularly and keep them up to date. You also need to keep your operating system up to date and install updates which are often aimed at patching holes viruses have been sneaking into.

Also, be aware of current threats. If a particular virus is affecting large amounts of people, learn about it and how to protect yourself from it. It is also important to use Windows as a standard account user as opposed to an administrator. If a virus attacks your computer, it will only be able to alter programs under a particular user and not make changes to the whole system. If you use Internet Explorer, you can adjust your security settings and only allow certain types of information in from websites.

In addition to these tips, be smart when you surf the internet. Only download programs from sites you know and trust. If you download a program, read the security warning and licensing agreement before downloading. Do not open suspicious emails or click on links if you are not sure exactly what they are and who they came from. When closing a window, make it a habit to click on the “x” in the corner as opposed to hitting “ok” or “agree”. Try not to download free music or videos or use shareware sites, they tend to be riddled with viruses.

What do I do if I get a virus?
Run a malware scan or Windows defender to find out if you have programs that have been affected. Quarantine or remove those programs. (You can also use versions of these programs offline if you are not able to connect to the internet.) If this does not work, another alternative is to perform a system restore and set your computer back to date before you contracted the virus. The third option would be to take your computer to a local computer repair shop and let the experts clean up your computer and make sure your security programs are up to date.

As our society becomes more reliant on computers, hackers now have more targets. Don’t make yourself an easy one, be smart about keeping your computer up to date and stay off risky websites.

Written By: Amy Murphy, TLC Computer Solutions, Las Vegas, NV

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