How to protect your PC against… Viruses, Spyware, Adware and Malware
No, this isn’t an image of a computer virus…
Viruses… Created by programmers who wish to exploit vulnerabilities within any given operating system simply because they can, or because they wish to cause damage. Whatever your view of Viruses, Spyware and Malware they exist to annoy the end user and businesses of which can cause fatal damage to one’s system.
So what exactly is a Virus?
Abbreviating from our nice friend Wikipedia the term was taken from Biology due to the similar nature of how it would manifest itself – Reproducing by making, possibly modified, copies of itself in the computer’s memory, storage, or over a network.
Bottom line being that it is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer without permission or knowledge of the user at all. Also due to the way viruses spread it can infect others by filesharing, emails and simple use of the internet infecting hundreds, thousands or even millions at a time.
What is Spyware, Adware and Malware?
Spyware is basically a program that collects personal information about users without their informed consent. This can be done in the form of keyloggers (recording every key you press on the keyboard) to things like recording your browsing habits using your History folder on your browser and much more. Not a nice thing I’m sure you’ll agree, especially if they log sensitive data such as passwords.
Malware (malicious software) is a bit more difficult to define because it shares many similarities to a Virus – To cause damage and harm once inftected.
Adware or advertising-supported software is any software package which automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertising material to a computer after the software is installed on it or while the application is being used.
What can be done to protect against Viruses, Malware and Spyware?
There are many things since as basic good practise of computer use and indeed installing an Anti-Virus Scanner. Since the internet has become a wide part of many lives in the modern era, there are still too many people who do not have any kind of basic practise towards this technology. The younger generation are as much to blame as the older generation in general because often enough all of this is new to them. Lets cover the basic practises first…
– Never install programs that you are unsure of!
The first two sources pre-check the files beforehand and even gives a review about them for you. If for example you receive a program sent to you by email, MSN etc and you are unsure about it (and don’t trust the source) then DON’T INSTALL IT!
You wouldn’t eat anything without at least inspecting, asking and having some form of prior knowledge about it first, so why feed your PC with potentially dangerous programs?
– Don’t click on anonymous links on the internet from websites, emails etc without checking!
There are many websites and emails out there that run scams or will try to get you to install a program before letting you continue. If you hover your cursor over any given link, more often than not you will see at the bottom of your web browser where exactly its pointing to. If the link ends in “.exe” for example then stay clear of it, unless you are 100% certain what it is.
“.exe” stands for “execution” of which are files that can be ran under Windows – By opening such a file you are giving it permission to install and run. If you don’t know what the file is then you are basically giving the keys to your front door to allow anything in. Not a good idea.
In essence if you are unsure, don’t click or install.
– Get into a habit of updating and scanning your computer for viruses, spyware, adware and malware often!
There are a host of programs out there that will scan, detect and clean out such files for you. Some are automated, some are not but it is often down to the users discretion to actively start the process. By getting into the habit of doing so, you are reducing the risk of infection and increasing the chances of your computer being clean. Maybe once a week for spyware, adware and malware is good enough for scans and for viruses many have real-time protection or even automated scans. If not though then maybe a full scan through the night as you go to bed is in order every month.
Okay, basic practises out of the way, what about the software?
I will recommend some FREE software that I know of, however if you know of any alternative pieces of software then you are welcome to list them in the comments for me to check out. Lets get the ball rolling!
– AVG, Anti-Virus Free Edition.
Probably the most widely known free Anti-Virus program there is out there currently, this one is worth having if you haven’t got a virus scanner at all. It features real-time protection, automated updates daily and scans, email protection and more for free. It also won’t eat up all your computer resources resulting in poor performance.
Spyware, Adware and Malware Scanners
– Spybots Search & Destroy.
A very good piece of software that scans and detects almost all traces of spyware, adware, malware and dodgy cookies. As long as you keep this piece of software updated, “Immunize” and then scanned you will find that it does pick up a lot of things. Good to use in conjunction with the software below.
Another highly powerful scanner that is a must have. They have free editions for personal use as well as paid solutions for businesses. Again it is key to keep this software updated often or at least updated before you scan to ensure full protection.
– Spyware Blaster
This program prevents the installation of ActiveX-based spyware, adware, browser hijackers, dialers, and other potentially unwanted software, as well as blocking spyware/tracking cookies in Internet Explorer and Mozilla/Firefox – All before you actually encounter them. How? It creates a blacklist of known bad apples so whenever oyu come across them, they will be denied straight away. Install, update then apply.
– Spyware Guard
What AVG does for Viruses by providing real-time protection, so does Spyware Guard for spyware. Again, install and update then you can just leave it alone, updating every so often. Simple! Just an extra note, on some computers I have installed this program on, you will get an error. To ensure that you get a fully working version I would advise on downloading the Spy Guard Minimal Setup as this works every time.
I hope this guide has helped you in the messy world of standard PC protection. I will be writing another soon for Firewalls and any other PC related items. If you have any suggestions on what you would like to see, then just make a comment and I will see what can be done. Safe surfing!