Due to the varying nature and origin of computer viruses, preventing an infection is just as much a matter of being mindful of what you click on, as it is of having software to help you to respond to any threats. Since Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware programs are always updating their software to respond to threats that have been reported, the latest malicious software tends to be one step ahead. As a result, your first line of prevention is to be aware of what you’re doing and whether your actions are about to open up the possibility of any infection.
Whether it’s a video player pop-up message saying, “install this new component to view your video” or whether you’re opening a link or email attachment sent from a seemingly legitimate source, taking a moment to evaluate whether you really trust the content can help you prevent an infection. However, if an infection does manage to embed itself into a legitimate file or copy to your system without any need of your actual interaction, your software then comes into play.
A distinction, though sometimes unclear, exists between Malware and Viruses. As a result, it’s often difficult to find a single prevention software solution that will tackle both malicious acts effectively. You’ll commonly need both dedicated Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware products. Each of these programs will act in similar fashions; ensuring they’re both configured and running properly is important.
Make sure your definitions are up-to-date.
This can be done by checking the update settings to ensure the program is set to automatically update, and if necessary, paying to renew any licenses with the software vendor to ensure you can keep receiving updates. Both preventing and responding to malicious infections effectively is dependent on whether the protection software is up to date.
Run full scans of your system regularly, preferably a few times a month.
This can either be done in the software by configuring a weekly scan of your hard drives or by manually remembering to leave a scan running, possibly overnight when you’re done with the PC for the day. This will ensure that no infections have snuck onto the system, probably waiting to be activated.
Real-time protection is an important feature to prevent many infections.
Real-time protection acts by scanning every object as you run it, whether that means scanning a document when you open it, or scanning a link when you click it. Since the program needs to check the data before opening it, this may cause a slowdown in performance as it acts as an important barrier between the line of preventing or responding to an infection.
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A computer virus is a common phrase used to describe any type of malicious software designed to replicate and spread to multiple computer systems. The methods viruses use to replicate are dependent upon the person writing the virus software. Often the person coding a virus starts with picking a security flaw to exploit. Types of security flaws can vary, allowing for different forms of viruses and methods of attack, such as:
- email systems allowing types of infected attachments to be delivered to a mailbox
- a website’s application or database engine allowing code to become inserted and infecting a legitimate webpage
- messages and emails containing no program, but are designed to appear to be from a legitimate source yet directing the user to an illegitimate or infected destination
Regardless, sometimes there are people who are simply searching for security flaws to report them, so they may be fixed or sell the information to people who will exploit the flaw.
Chronology of a Computer Virus
1. Once the security flaw is chosen and a small “virus” is written to exploit it, the means of attack will be chosen to send the virus out. Often it’s done using a “botnet” network of PCs controlled remotely to automatically perform the task that may have already been infected by another virus to perform this task.
2. From here they will be setup to perform tasks like an “injection” to insert the malicious code into a legitimate website, creating a “drive-by download” where the malicious code is downloaded without any user interaction, or send out a massive number of infected or fraudulent “phishing” emails designed to trick the user.
Note: Often the first virus which infects a computer is designed to perform no action, but rather is designed to get “a foot in the door” for further infections. As a result of this need to not be detected, these initial viruses are constantly changing to keep a step ahead of the Anti-Virus software.
Once infected however, these viruses may be designed to perform tasks automatically to further infect the system, such as:
- responding to commands remotely
- adding it to the “botnet”
- installing malicious programs designed to bombard the user ads for fraudulent “scareware” products like a fake Anti-Virus or Malware
- “keylogging” all typed keystrokes, looking for patterns like credit card numbers or passwords
Often enough, each step of this is segregated. An underground economic model starts to emerge where specific roles develop to keep up in the constant world of technology.
How Computer Viruses Spread
1. People find vulnerabilities and sell the information to programmers
2. Those who write code for exploitation sell it to people who control botnets of thousands of computer systems
3. Those botnet controllers will then use their botnets to infect more systems in order to install malicious or fraudulent software which they’ve been paid to do
4. Finally, the malicious software which users may see might be designed to trick the user into paying $50 for fraudulent software or steal financial information. By this point, an economic model emerges, where the FBI has estimated $150 million dollars have been spent in fake Anti-Virus scams alone.
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If Malware is preventing you from getting on the internet, usually it’s caused by a bogus “proxy server” that’s been setup to hijack your internet browsing activity. You could contact a computer consultant, or try fixing the issue yourself….
1. Get in via Safe Mode.
To do this, hit the F8 key when you startup your PC and the select to boot into “Safe Mode with Networking”. The “With Networking” part will be important to troubleshooting when you can get online again and to download some tools once you’re in Safe Mode.
Once Microsoft Windows loads, it will alert you that you are running Windows in Safe mode and click “OK” to continue.
2. Open Internet Explorer.
Select “Tools” then “Internet Options.” Click the “Connections” tab. On this “Connections” tab click the “LAN Settings” button.
Here is where the “Proxy server” settings are. Uncheck any checkboxes for Proxy Servers. Then hit “OK” on this Window and finally hit “OK” on the Internet Options window.
If a proxy server was at fault, you should now be able to get online for the time being. However, I’d recommend you stay in Safe Mode, and use this oppertunity to download, install, and run a legitimate Antivirus, and more importantly an “Anti-Malware” program. If you don’t have one already, I’d recommend AVG Free, and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. A virus may have allowed the Malware to get installed, but running an Anti-Malware program like Malwarebytes is the most important at this point, because Malware is what’s popping up and preventing you from getting online.
No time to stop by your office before your next appointment? There’s a bookstore with free Wi-Fi right down the street…But how safe is the bookstore computer network? Tons of other unknown users are connected…Could the innocent-looking, coffee-drinking dude at the next table be sending a virus through the free Wi-Fi network as we speak? How safe is free Wi-Fi? How can you stay secure on an unsecure network?
When connecting to a free Wi-Fi hotspot…
- The security of your connection depends upon how it was setup by the provider. The free Wi-Fi could be setup with wireless encryption and settings to keep users segregated from each other, which may require you to take some steps to obtain a username & password from the provider. It could also be completely open with no encryption or security measures to make it as easy as possible for you to connect…and anyone else.
- It’s best to err on the side of caution and assume that anything you will be doing can be logged, accessed or intercepted. Malicious individuals can simply hop onto the wireless traffic, run programs that will “sniff out” the computer network and eventually crack the wireless encryption, allowing them to see what other users are accessing. Avoiding activity such as credit card transactions, accessing bank accounts or any other sensitive actions should be avoided. Viruses and other attacks can also spread through networks. This is why you want to ensure you have up-to-date Antivirus and a Firewall, which helps prevent access to your system.