Preventative Virus Protection – A Flu Shot for your PC?

Hacker “Flu Season” exists 24 / 7 / 365 for your PC and can put your critical data stored on that PC at risk. Your Computer can catch a Virus and you might not even know it.

Hacker creativity is rising at an exponential rate, and you need to do all you can to keep your PC from getting “Sick”.

Let’s start with the basics.

First of all, a Virus can slip through any “doorway” or “hole” that your PC might leave open due to old versions of software, or just bad E-Mail procedures.

These types of holes include (but are not limited to):

Unsolicited E-mails.
Unsolicited E-mails can carry executable files that can embed and then run on your PC. These files can then become the portal for passing on your personal information you have on the PC to the Hacker Systems. So as a rule of thumb, never open any E-mail you don’t recognize, or was unsolicited.

Visiting an Infected Web Site.
Any website can be infected and when visited can possibly load a Virus or Trojan on your site. Even reputable sites can have malicious code that they are yet unaware of and the site is still online.

Note: Google or other search engines, attempt to “Warn” when a site is “Infected” But even I have seen them miss an infected site, so don’t rely on your Search Engine to “warn” you . They try, but the results are not 100%.

Easy to Guess Passwords.
Hackers can crack easy passwords and access information you don’t want them to have. Make your passwords difficult to crack. Use both upper and lower case letters, and mix in numbers, and make them at least 6 characters or more. The longer and more difficult to crack the better.

Old versions of ANY browser.
Non-current browser software (Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox, etc.) can provide an open doorway for Hackers to use send their Viruses and Trojans through to infect your PC.

Old versions of your Windows Software.
Again, Non-current Windows Software creates a wonderful opportunity for Hackers to use their Viruses and Trojans to embed on your PC. We have found this to be the biggest culprit of a PC becoming infected. Don’t rely on Automatic Daily Update Settings to keep your Windows software current. Yes, you should be set for Automatic Daily Updates, but you should also double check manually every few days, or once a week to see if you missed any major update installs. The automated updates are good, but major updates sometimes require manual input to install, so it is good to always check to see if you have any updates outstanding. Even when you have automatic updates turned on.

Caution: Many of today’s current Viruses and Trojans are very sneaky. Once they lodge on your PC, they can overtake any Anti-Virus software, and make it look like they aren’t there. IE: Your Anti Virus software can be compromised, and once compromised; it can’t tell you it has been compromised. So you go on thinking your PC is clean when it really isn’t, while your critical data is being compromised, and you don’t even realize it.

So, what do you do to first identify if you might have a Virus, and then how do you get rid of it and keep your PC clean on a daily basis?

First of all, you should assume if you have old versions of your windows software or browser software, you could be infected and not know it.

Step 1 – Make sure that all Windows Update Software is set to update Daily.

A – Click Start
B – Click Control Panel
C – Click Automatic Updates
D – Choose Automatic Every Day and set the time you want it to update.

Step 2 – Manually, make sure your Windows Update Software is current.

Note: You should do this step once every few days or week to help keep your PC from having a hole that might let a Virus in. Like we said above, Automatic Updates is good, but doesn’t always catch big updates.

A – Click Start
B – Click All Programs
C – Click Windows Update
D – Depending on your version of windows (Vista / XP) you will need to find the link that says something like: Get Updates, Check for Updates, etc.

Step 3 – Make sure all your browsers are updated to the latest version. This means every browser you have loaded on your PC. We also have seen Viruses attack through security holes in the new CROME browser, so until it is more stable, you should probably stick to using either IE, Netscape or Firefox. Again, as an ongoing precaution, you need to set your Browsers to automatically update to their latest version.

Articles on Crome Security holes.

CNET News
ZD Net News

For more go to Google and search: crome browser security holes

Step 4 – Uninstall and Reinstall the current version of your anti Virus software. This is because if a Trojan or Virus has overtaken your Virus software, and you don’t know it, the Reinstall will catch it, as long as the Anti Virus software you are Reinstalling has the current definitions and you have updated your windows and browsers to the most current version. Also, make sure your Anti-Virus software automatically updates with any new definitions or updates daily.
At this point your PC should be clean of any infections.

A brief note for anyone who uses FTP on your PC to keep your website updated.
FTP software can be compromised by Viruses and Trojans. So you should also keep your FTP updated with the latest version, and if you have been compromised, changing your FTP access on the host is the best way to stop any further infections on the web.

Let’s reiterate the Preventative steps you can take to help keep your PC “Healthy” on a daily basis.

A – Once every few days or once a week run a manual Windows Update check (Step 2 above)
B – Keep your Browser software current.
C – Make sure your Anti-Virus software automatically updates with any new definitions or updates daily.

As with the human flu, you can take all the precautions available and still get sick, so remember to be careful when surfing, and if you suspect you might have allowed a Virus or Trojan in by accidentally clicking on an unsolicited E-Mail or your PC is just acting funny, revisit steps 1-4 above.

Other Resources: Stop Bad Ware

Lisa Kolb
President and Co-Founder
Acorn Internet Services, Inc.
Educating our Industry One Innkeeper at a Time…

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