Viruses are malignant programmes that attack computer hardware or software, causing malfunction or even total data loss. Viruses may spread through portable media, such as flash disks, CDs and pen drives. They can also access your computer system via unsecured networks or online downloads. Here are some tips on how you can protect your computer against a malicious attack:

  • If you’re unsure about downloading or viewing an attachment, simply go ahead and delete it, especially if it’s from an unknown source. If there are tempting animations on a site that look unreal or something that’s too good to be true, don’t download it at any cost.
  • Don’t share drives, CDs, etc, with others even if he or she is your best friend. Even a well-meaning friend may unknowingly pass along a virus, Trojan horse, or worm. Label your discs clearly so you know they’re yours and don’t loan them out.
  • Viruses spread like wildfire through CDs. Don’t boot your computer from a CD. You never know when the infected files will sneak into your machine.
  • Don’t download programmes, applications, and other files from websites you know little about or are suspicious of. Avoid downloading files you can’t ascertain are safe. This includes freeware, screensavers, games, or any other executable programmes.
  • Always scan for viruses before using any file, especially when you’re downloading files off external devices, such as USB memory sticks or external hard drives. You could easily pick up a virus from a corrupted file and introduce it into your system.
  • Install an antivirus programme on each of your computers. These are programmes developed to identify, neutralise and get rid of viruses from your computer. They scan your computer and disinfect it of any existing viruses. Antivirus programmes also prevent malicious code from copying itself onto your hard disk and accessing data on the computer. Many antivirus programmes, both free and commercial ones, are available in the market.
  • Secure your Internet connection with a firewall. A firewall is software or a device developed to prevent unauthorised access to your computer by viruses and hackers. Without an active firewall, your computer will remain vulnerable to infection by a malicious programme, often within minutes of connecting to the Internet.
  • Isolate infected computers or drives and disconnect them from the Internet until you’ve run an antivirus programme. Workstations on networks that are infected with viruses should be isolated and disinfected before being restored into the network.
  • Update your antivirus programmes on a regular basis. If possible, set up the programme to automatically alert you when updates are available from the vendor. This will help ensure that it can detect and get rid of new known viruses. Make a practice of running the antivirus programme on a regular basis. Stay up-to-date on security updates and vulnerability patches for computer software you have installed on your PC.
  • Scan all email attachments or files that you have downloaded from the Internet before you open them, to ensure there’s no malicious content in the downloaded matter. Never download email attachments that are not from trusted sources, especially if it has an .exe/.vbs extension. Scan any flash disks, CDs or other storage media before use, especially if they’re from an unknown source.

Removing a virus is no mean task either. You have to run a full system scan, clear your computer’s cache and temporary files, and if possible, undertake a system restore. Always ensure your antivirus and firewall are up-to-date and running. Follow the steps mentioned above and you will remain virus free.

Stay tuned to this section as we continue to the next topic, desktop security.