Virus protection for the home PC user
By: Matt Survis, MBS Computer Consulting
Many people are both worried and confused about how to keep viruses off their home computers. As a consultant I am often asked what can be done to prevent a virus from getting in. “Do I have to avoid certain websites?”, “Is Facebook letting viruses in?”, and the list goes on of possible threats.
Regardless of “trustworthiness” of any website, any time you are logged on to the internet, you are exposed to potential threats. Truly some websites are worse than others for spreading viruses. Most Internet security software blocks such sites as they are discovered via updates. This brings us to things you can do to help keep your computer free from viruses and other unwanted programs.
- Windows update – Your computer should be set to get Windows Updates automatically every day. These updates from Microsoft fix vulnerabilities in Windows which can let viruses through. You can check the settings by opening the Control Panel, and then select either Windows Update or Security Settings. Also, if you shut your computer down every night, it will likely want to download and install updates as soon as you turn it on. This one reason for what seems like a long boot up.
- Anti-Virus software – If you have a Windows (XP, Vista, Win7) computer and you connect to the Internet for ANY reason (E-Mail, Surfing, Banking, Updates, Etc.) you need antivirus software. There are more than a few options for FREE antivirus programs including one from Microsoft called Security Essentials. No matter which AV program you have, it needs to be turned on and kept up to date. Most AV programs update and run automatically with little or no interaction required from a person. Some people prefer to purchase software which offers more protection. Again there are many options, but I like Kaspersky for the home user. It works well and does not slow your computer down as much as some of the others can do.
- Anti-Malware – Malware is different from viruses in that it doesn’t “attack” your system. It generally gathers information such as the type of websites you visit and the types of things you purchase online. Then they try to send targeted advertising to you. Also many antivirus programs include antimalware. I still recommend running a third party antimalware “once in a while” (depending on how much you surf the Internet). Malwarebytes is the one I use. It’s a good first line of defense when your computer starts slowing down.
- Get a check up! – If you truly want to extend the life and performance of your computer, have a professional check it out once per year. Many times major problems start long before you notice big issues. A good computer technician can ensure everything is up to date and any unwanted software is removed, and recommend ways to improve speed and performance.
Another important item to cover with regards to viruses is back-ups. If you have taken all of the proper precautions and a virus still gets through somehow, you will want to have your important things, such as pictures, music, documents, contacts, tax info, and more copied somewhere safe. It’s a good idea for many reasons besides viruses, such hard drive failure, theft, and fire. If you do not have too much data a simple flash drive is a good way to back up important things. If you have lots of pictures and music and videos, you should look in to an external hard drive and schedule regular back-ups.
Please feel free to contact me with questions.
MBS Computer Consulting