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Eight Ways to Avoid Viruses

The last thing you want to have happen to your computer is for it to get a virus. If that happens, you could face a long list of potential problems that you wouldn't wish on anyone. Just one of the following virus symptoms could give you a nasty headache:

  • Your operating system slows to a crawl.
  • Your system's available memory suddenly shrinks in size.
  • Important files become corrupted.
  • Your computer screen starts displaying odd images or messages.
  • You notice strange files or programs on your computer.
  • Music or other strange sounds start playing for no reason.
  • Some important files and even programs vanish.
  • Applications and programs that worked before suddenly don't.
  • Your operating system doesn't open or shuts down unexpectedly and routinely.

Safeguarding yourself against viruses.

Nobody willingly or knowingly allows a virus to infect their computer, and it doesn't happen on its own. A virus attacks your computer when you inadvertently allow it to slip past your defenses and onto your computer.

Here are eight ways you can avoid being the victim of a computer virus:

  1. Don't start your computer when there is a USB (thumb) drive or other type of removable media in a port or driver, especially if that media came from someone you don't know or trust 100%. Why? Because if there is a virus on that media, it will load onto your hard drive when you start up.
  2. Think twice before opening any attachment that comes in an email. Ask yourself, "Do I know the sender?" If the answer is "yes," are you sure their email address is correct? Were you expecting the attachment?
  3. If you receive an email from a stranger, either mark it as spam immediately or delete it without opening the email. If there's an attachment, do not open the attachment under any circumstances!
  4. If you receive an email with an attachment from someone you do know—but that you weren't expecting—inspect it closely. Check the spelling of the sender's name and examine the message carefully for spelling errors, which is often a tipoff that it's not genuine. (Even if a message you weren't expecting is error-free and seems legitimate, you may want to check with the sender to make sure he or she sent it.)
  5. Learn how to disable and enable macros, which are instructions saved in spreadsheet and word processing programs. A macro isn't bad, unless someone who wants to infect your computer puts one there.
  6. Make sure you have an antivirus program running on your computer, and keep it updated. It will identify and remove viruses in your memory, storage media and any incoming files. Most importantly, an antivirus program automatically scans files you download from the Internet, email attachments and open files.
  7. Think about installing a software or hardware firewall. A router is an example of a hardware firewall. Microsoft includes a personal software firewall in its operating system.
  8. Keep your guard up! There are websites that publish lists of the latest known virus alerts and virus hoaxes.

What's a virus hoax, you ask? Here's an example:

You receive an email from an important-sounding source that advises you to delete a specific file on your system immediately because it is carrying a virus and can take over your computer without notice.

But, it's a hoax and untrue. In fact, if you do delete the file, it will likely make your computer unusable.

Spread the word, not the virus.

If you're connected to a network at home or in a small office, you're not the only one who needs to be careful. Anyone on the network who lets a virus infect their computer puts the entire network at risk.

Make sure you share this article with anyone who is on your network, as well as family and friends.

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