How paranoid are ya?
I know a lot of us are at the very least a little wary of getting hit by a computer virus/malware/generally nasty code.
Before you get incredibly paranoid, or worse, you write it all off as fiction, let me give a little insight:
It exists, it’s incredibly easy to find, and most importantly, it’s incredibly easy to avoid and defend against.
1. Keep your virus scanner up to date.
If you find that some virus scanners are outside your budget, use a free one. AVG & Kapersky are great examples of free scanners. If you want concrete details on which scanners actually pull their weight, I highly suggest you check out av-test.org. They really put scanners to the test and make sure the scanners do what they are meant.
Know the name of the virus scanner you have installed. Some harmful links and sites will attempt to trick you into scanning your system by creating a popup saying you need to scan your computer immediately. You run the scan, buy their software to remove the incredible number of harmful files on your machine (without realizing that you just downloaded them from the same source), and that’s it…you just paid them $50 for cleaning up all the bad stuff they gave to you in the first place. This is very BIG business for many country’s overseas, so knowing what you scanners name is will keep you from giving these scams a chance to rip you off.
2. Don’t run it unless you know what it is.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve watched turbo-trigger-happy people decimate their machine because of their uncontrollable need to double-click everything they see. I don’t need to give examples, we all have done it at some time or another. The bottom line is as a practice, running programs you aren’t familiar with on your machine is asking for fun.
Some of these creepy business applications deliberately create icons and links designed specifically to make you think they are something else. I found one last year that looked like the windows update icon…but it wasn’t, it was a little program that set up a download point on your machine and checked an IRC channel for instructions from people as to what to download to the infected machine.
If you want to scan a file, check out Jotti’s Virus Scan, it will let you scan a file on your machine with a gazillion scanners.
3. Questionable sources.*cough* Torrents *cough*
Some friend or buddy gives you a “freebie” copy of some software hookup they got. You have to be incredibly careful here. In addition to risking your computer, you’re probably breaking a handful of laws by using cracked software. Even worse, it’s estimated that 90% of the intrusions and malware/virus infections come from cracked or illegitimately licensed software. The difference is that you shouldn’t be downloading software that is from a questionable source. Any software you acquire that is deliberately cracked to enable the full use of the product without purchase/registration is asking for trouble, the decision is yours, but an incredible percentage of cracked software out there is wired to to make computer do a lot more than what you’re expecting.
So thats it, simple advice. You can probably get away with the stuff in bold, but I thought it might be good to explain a little bit. Also keep in mind, this is the basics. There are tons more things you can do to tighten things up on your machine and I am sure I will write about those at some point.
Regardless, the guidelines really are this simple folks. If you’re using the above, the odds are distinctly in your favor. Most of the time.
Unless you’re me and happen to actually find malware in a legitimate application and have to alert the vendor that they made me cry when their software came up as toxic on 5 different scanners’ 🙂