The first line of defense
Your best peripheral defense against viruses
should be your own wits and common sense.
In fact, anti-virus programs often don't
catch newly released viruses. Look at yourself
as the only reliable line of defense.
There's usually something "fishy"
about either the email message or the attachment when they carry a virus. If you suspend
trust while you decide if a message or attachment
is OK, you can readily avoid viruses that
are carried by email.
A good antivirus program is good insurance
against the inevitable time when you fail
to spot a virus. Your antivirus program will
probably step in and save your bacon. That happens
to me about once every two year. Tends to
keep me on my toes.
Trick or treat? The !0000 trick is simple. It's supposed to block the spread
of PC viruses. -- you just add an entry to
your email address book. Trouble is, it won't
do anything most of the time. Worse yet,
the false sense of security it gives is worse
than no protection at all.
How about worms, Trojans, spyware and the
Anti-virus programs have not been effective
against this kind of malware, even though
some of it resembles viruses, but that's
changing. Most of them are getting better
at detecting this type of malware. A better solution is a good anti-malware program though. There are several available
that will protect you against worms, Trojans, spyware and many other kinds of
Virus signature (reference) files
Antivirus programs depend on up-to-date virus
signatures. They're the digital
or "DNA" of the viral
these programs scan for. New
viruses or mutants
of old ones are turned loose
on the Internet
every day. You must keep your
up to date, or your antivirus
soon become relatively useless.
enable the auto-update function
the new ones at least once a
there's a button right on your
program to take you to the download
Don't forget to update your signatures after
you've been away for a while -- say on a
two week cruise. Do it before you download
that big batch of messages that's stored
up. The latest crop of viruses will be in
there waiting for you.
Scan your computer for viruses online
There are places you can go online
your computer scanned. You may
not have an
antivirus program installed,
or you may want
a "second opinion"
about how clean
your computer really is. These
a while, especially the first
they need to download some software
they can run the tests.
Norton (Symantec) is a good place to get your computer scanned
for viruses.Trend Micro is another, and they check for Trojans too.
These places are handy if you don't have
an antivirus program installed on your computer.
(You are going to get one aren't you?) Please read this article if you have ever used the Symantec Security
Check prior to June 24, 2003.
Test your antivirus program
It's better to have no protection at all,
than protection that doesn't really work.
You're bound to drop your guard if you think
you're protected. You can check the effectiveness
of your antivirus system by using some simple tests.
It's also possible for your antivirus program
to give a false alarm. Ziff Davis has an
article that explains why, and also how to resolve
Most present-day antivirus programs are deeply
embedded in the operation system. That makes
it hard to fully uninstall them, which can
lead to big problems. You could end up blocked
from the Internet. Or when you install another
antivirus program, it may not work. The maxim,
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it"
certainly fits here. It's best to pick a
good program and stay with it. If you do
need to uninstall one, check their Web site
for instructions on how to do it cleanly.
There're more than a dozen reasonably good
antivirus programs to pick from. Most new
computers come with one already installed.
If you want something different though, you'll
need to do some research to find out which
ones fit your needs best. Here are some sites
that will help.
http://www.wilders.org/anti_viruses.htm -- Wilders reviews (fairly complete).
http://antivirus.about.com/cs/beforeyoubuy/tp/aatpavwin.htm -- reviews by About.com (not a complete
http://www.virusbtn.com/ and http://www.firewallguide.com/anti-virus.htm -- comprehensive, independent test results
Many antivirus programs have become "bloatware"
(too many features, patchwork programming).
The most popular ones are also more frequently
targeted (and defeated) by hackers and worm
NOD32 is one of the leaner, meaner alternatives.
It has a very good record (perfect, last
time I checked) for catching viruses "in
the wild" (those that are actually circulating
on the Internet). It's a personal favorite
of several reviewers. It's the one that I
use exclusively. [review]
Avast! is a good free alternative because it's based on an excellent
"professional" version. I've used
several versions on my own and relatives
computers. It always worked quite well, and
the latest version has eliminated a couple
AVG Anti-virus is another good antivirus program, with
free and "pro" versions.
receives good reports from people
http://www.trendmicro.com/en/ -- PC-cillin -- $49.95
http://www.nod32.com/ -- NOD32 -- $39.95 (This is the one that
http://www.f-prot.com/ -- F-prot -- $29.95
http://www.avast.com/ -- avast! -- free for home use
http://www.grisoft.com/us/us_index.php -- AVG Anti-virus
Don't forget that after the first year or
two, most of these programs require subscription fees to keep their signature
files up to date. And if you don't keep them
up to date, you might as well not have them.
Symantec's (Norton) and McAfee's security suites can be more economical than buying individual
programs to protect against viruses, hackers
and Trojans. They include antivirus, a firewall
and other functions. I'm inclined to pick
my own program for each job though.
Conventional anti-virus programs have done
the job of protecting computers from viruses
very well up till now. Unfortunately, that's changing. It's easy to change the characteristics
of a virus -- it's "signature"
-- so that it's not recognized. The virus
slips right by the anti-virus program. There
are some defenses against these disguised
virus files, such as heuristics in some anti-virus programs, that work well.
The best defense is still common sense and
personal vigilance though. [more]
Information on viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and other
http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/ -- information on viruses, Trojan horses,
worms, macros and other vulnerabilities
exploits at Symantec's "Security
http://www.trendmicro.com/en/security/report/overview.htm -- the latest information on viruses, worms
and hoaxes from Trend Micro™.
http://cybercoyote.org/security/resources.htm -- cross referrences to many other resources.
Many viruses and worms can be removed by
anti-virus programs and other techniques.
You can get good information free tools for
removing the more "popular" ones
at several antivirus companies. It may be best to seek the help of a local expert though.
If you're running Windows ME or XP and remove
a virus, do not subsequently use a system
restore point that might have included the
virus, or you may need to remove it again.