How does my computer get infected with viruses?

The degree of sophistication used in Cybercrime these day is both extremely interesting and alarming. The average computer user really needs to take some interest in what is going on, and to take steps to reduce the possibility of being a victim.

It is a costly business at every level. Governments and corporate entities pay large dollars to secure online systems from Cybercrime, and occasionally security systems fail. For individuals, the cost can range from paying $80-100 per year for anti-virus protection to several hundred dollars paid to computer repairers to recover damaged computer operating systems and lost personal files.

Although, the most worrisome risk is identity theft and the stealing of passwords for online banking, fortunately individuals who fall victims to fraud, theft and other cybercrime are given a measure of relief from banks and financial institutions. It never makes headline news, but when a case is proven that an individual has had their bank account emptied as a result of Cybercrime, the financial institution will normally replace the money and nothing more is said. It is bad for business to discuss such incidents.

So how does it happen? Well, out there in cyberspace, there lurks small snippets of malicious software in every corner of the Internet. Accidentally download this software to your computer without sufficient protection, and you are DONE!

The next time you download pirated music, videos or software, could be the next time you get infected. The file you try to download might seem to be that piece of music you have been looking for, but the file could contain some extra 'code' that opens a backdoor to your computer. Once deposited on your computer, it dials home and more malicious software is downloaded. The degree of sophistication is such that it can lie on your hard disk dormant until a given date, or it uses quite excellent stealth strategies to hide itself from your anti-virus software. Yes, that's right, having anti-virus software installed does not give 100% protection, especially if it is FREE!

Using any file swapping (know as peer-2-peer networking) to download pirated movies and music is a real risk - just don't do it! It is illegal anyway, as it transgresses copyright law,

Perhaps a method even more likely to get your computer infected is to visit Porn websites, or websites set up to look like Porn sites but really exist to infect you computer. Of course, not too many people are going to freely mention their computer became infected as a result of searching for Porn! If you have teenagers in the house, you had better get some strong protection. It is almost guaranteed you will get infected.

Email is still a route for Cybercrime, and a very good one at that. Sooner or later one of your friends or family members will send you an email with a dangerous attachment. If you should try to open this attachment, you will be infected. Often the subject of the email will be something funny to entice you to open the attachment. You need to be aware that attachments with any of the following extensions, DO NOT OPEN:

Protection against viruses

All computer uses need to learn the basic steps for protecting a computer against an attach of malicious software (virus, trojan, worm, rootkit).

What you need to learn is:

  1. Ensure that your operating system is downloading and installing updates regularly. If a computer falls behind with updates, you will most definitely be more susceptible to attack.
  2. Install quality anti-virus and internet protection software.As a computer repairer, I see a lot of computers brought to me for virus removal that have free anti-virus software installed.
  3. Learn how look and make a judgment of whether a website that comes up in Google search is likely to be safe. One customer could not understand why every time they searched for their bank using google, they kept going to a a peculiar website and getting infected. Unfortunately they did not read well enough the search results in Google. If they had done so, they would have seen that the URL was nothing like their bank's URL.
  4. Avoid installing free software just because a notice pops up on your computer when you search the internet and begs you to install, purporting to offer so many benefits all completely free. Do get fooled, free software usually comes at a price sooner or later.
  5. Be careful about lending your computer to other people, or letting them use your computer without supervision, unless you feel sure they can be trusted not to do something that you wouldn't like. When someone brings me a computer to remove malicious software, I often ask them 'Do you have teenagers in the house?"

What anti-virus software?

Well I have been using AVG Internet Security (not the free version) for a while now, and so far my computer is trouble free. I guess I also recommend Norton Anti-virus, their reputation is well deserved. There are other good brands such as Kaspersky Labs and perhaps McAfee.

Whatever, anti-virus software you install, it is not much good if it does not update daily. You need to make sure it does.


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