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5 Common Legends About Viruses and How to Avoid Them

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viruses and how to avoid themFew would disagree that the computer has been the most important invention of the last 100 years. These common yet complex devices are almost solely responsible for ushering in the Information Age. But of course, with every boon comes a boondoggle: viruses and malware. And because of the well-publicized ability to do incredible damage, the release of even the tamest of malware can set off what could accurately be described as mass hysteria. Fact is, there are a number of common myths about viruses and how to avoid them that could almost be pegged as urban legend.

Presented here are 5 of those much ballyhooed legends about viruses and how to avoid them. But first, a couple of important distinctions: A virus is a computer program that infects a computer and attempts to copy itself around thereby infecting other computers. Most viruses are designed to create havoc by deleting files, interfering with computer performance or making computers downright unusable. Most times, folks are tricked into installing the software through the promise of something better hence the oft-used term Trojan Horse.  Malware is really just a catchall term for any software designed to inflict harm. Viruses are simply one flavour of malware.

Legend #1: Error Message = Malware
Many folks press the panic button when they see an error message falsely believing they have a virus. Truth is, its more likely an issue with the software, a problem with the hard drive, bad RAM, or even the antivirus software itself. If you crash, its far more likely to be a bug of the software variety rather than an insidious piece of malware. Having said that, repeated crashes are of a greater concern and in most cases, if you are indeed suffering from multiple crashes, a good place to start is with a complete virus scan of your computer.

Legend #2: My computer infected itself
Not likely. You have as good a chance of that as you do of giving yourself a cold. Users have to have installed the virus themselves – either knowingly (not sure who would do that) or more likely unknowingly through the download of a malicious program or by visiting an infected website and triggering a background installation.
Your best defense is to avoid the “dark underbelly” of the web. Stay away from adult sites and sites that give away illegally gained music, movies, or software. Many of them are trolling for you to give in to your dark side. Don’t do it.

Legend #3 – Only PCs can get a virus
This one is a killer. Many people have been led to believe that Apple systems are incapable of being infected or compromised. Truth is that as of 2012, Apple had more incidents of security breaches within both the Apple OSX platform (including the OS and applications) than any other software manufacturer on the planet – Scout’s honour.

The lesson here is that the more popular a platform becomes, the higher likelihood is that someone will target it. Windows has been and still is the most popular platform available but as Apple and Linux start making up ground, you can bet your last dollar that they will be targeted more and more aggressively.

Legend #4 – If I re-install my operating system, I can just copy my files back and all is OK

Many have gone through the pain and anguish of re-installing everything on their PC only to find the virus comes back again (and again). Remember: if you have a virus infected file that you copy off and then back again, you will 100% get the same virus again. Not to say that re-installing wont work. Sometimes it’s the only way to get you back to square one, but don’t suffer the repeat heartbreak. Make sure you scan all your content before copying it back again.

viruses and how to avoid themLegend #5 – My firewall will protect me
Windows comes with a built-in firewall and most everyone, if indeed not everyone, has a firewall / router plugged into their systems – even at home. And while firewalls do a great job of protecting you from hackers, they are still somewhat vulnerable to malware. They are typically designed to keep you connected to your various networks and to stop the bad guys from getting in. And although some routers can scan for viruses on the fly, it is not their strong suti. Case in point, many of today’s more sophisticated malware can detect and inactivate your Windows firewall.

What to do?
Well for starters, get a good antivirus program, keep it updated and scan your system regularly. Viruses are very good at creeping in from the background but most arent all that good at hiding from a scan. That’s not all you can do though, that’s only the start. You also need to:

  • Be wary of programs that ask for your password
  • Be wary of free software that claims to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. If it’s looks too good to be true, it is.
  • Don’t install programs from sources you neither know nor trust.
  • Don’t install plugins, browser add-ons, or toolbars suggested by a website. Go and download it from the source if you really must.
  • Don’t download pirated music and movies, don’t download “cracked” software (pirated but with an install key) from Warez sites, and for heaven’s sake, stop surfing for porn.

Concerned about network security and malware? Unsure about viruses and how to avoid them?  Give us a call for a free assessment and start protecting your computers and your intellectual data.