October 7, 2020
What is a computer virus?
A computer virus, similar to its biological namesake, infects a host computer and self-replicates itself by copying itself into another program. The purpose of a virus generally, is to gain administrative control of the infected device to steal data or money, cause a disruption in services, annoy, and in some evil cases destroy systems, or even harm.
How can you tell if you have been infected by a virus?
Some examples of symptoms to look for:
- Computer doesn’t start or slow to start
- Missing files of a certain type
- Folders disappear
- Apps launch on their own
- Frequent crashes and freezes
- Unexplained and frequent error messages
- Device seems to be on…even though turned off.
How do you protect yourself from computer viruses?
Just like getting in a car – you can never be 100 percent sure that nothing bad will happen…even if you follow all of the guidelines.
Good news though: if you follow some basic guidelines, stay alert, and keep everything up to date and backed up, the chances of getting a virus are greatly reduced:
- Make sure all devices are protected by a reputable anti-virus software and that you are running scans and updating the virus data base at a minimum every day.
- Backup your devices to separate locations, such as removable hard drives. Note: anything you backup to the “cloud” can be hacked as well. Only put data in the cloud that you are willing to lose at some point due to hacking. “The Cloud” is just another name for “someone else’s computer” on the public internet.
- We are all on Wi-Fi networks which makes it necessary to have a firewall protecting your home network and on your computers.
- Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments in emails. Hover your mouse over the link to see where it is going. Once I received an email that looked really official, but using the hover test, I was able to see that the company name had a typo: “AMEZON”. If you don’t know the person sending you the email, or you have ANY suspicion what so ever: delete the email. If it was a legit correspondence they will call you or email you again…no worries.
- Be aware that most virus infections occur when someone is using a device in a hurry, multi-tasking, is stressed, angry, or distracted. I know it is a lot to ask, but take frequent breaks and try to limit distractions while online.
- Teach your children not to click on every ad and “free” game offer they come across. In most households this is a major source of viruses. The offer of “Becoming a Millionaire” by clicking on a dodgy gambling sites pop-up ad is irresistible to most children. For any device that the children use, set the security options on the browser and anti-virus to “maximum” (since the kid’s love to use grandma’s and granddad’s devices too, give them heads-up to do the same at their house).
This isn’t a complete list of tips, but it will get you started in the right direction. Comment below. What anti-virus habits would you recommend?