Computer viruses, worms, and Trojan horses are becoming more prevalent, more insidious, and more destructive. One of the most serious causes for concern in this area is the frequent changes in virus behavior. What was once “common knowledge” about virus exposure is now seriously out of date.
The following 12 steps reflect the state of the virus writers’ art as of today, which is considerably different from virus behavior a few years ago. To minimize your likelihood of virus infection, the traditional, old advice applies, but with many new twists, which are summarized here:
1. Make regular backups of your important data files, preferably to an off-site backup service
such as Carbonite or Mozy.
2. Never open an e-mail attachment from someone you don’t know, regardless of the file type.
3. Never open an attachment from someone you do know, unless you first verify with them that
they did actually send you that attachment.
4. If they did send you the attachment, verify that they are the original source of the attachment
– if they just forwarded something they thought was entertaining, it still could contain a
virus, worm, Trojan horse, or other malicious code.
5. Run a well-known Antivirus program, update your virus definitions daily, and have the
program automatically scan all incoming and outgoing e-mail and attachments. It also should
automatically scan any links in web sites, social media, or Instant Messenger messages.
6. Perform a Windows Update regularly, applying all Critical Updates and Important Updates
as soon as they are available.
7. Be sure that your Windows Update settings include checking all Microsoft products for
updates, not just Windows itself.
8. Automatically apply all updates to ancillary programs, such as Adobe Air, Flash, Reader and
Shockwave; Java, QuickTime, Real Player, etc.
9. If feasible, uninstall Java from your computer; alternatively, disable Java in your browser.
10. Change the default options in Windows Explorer so that you can see all viruses (and all
attachments) by their full name. In Control Panel, Folder Options, the View tab, make the
following changes: Display the contents of system folders; Show hidden files and folders; do
not Hide file extensions for known file types; and do not hide protected operating system
11. Exercise some restraint in forwarding jokes, cartoons, petitions, and other “cute” or sexy
messages, and encourage your friends, associates, and correspondents to do the same.
12. If you e-mail anything to a list of recipients, place your address in the To: field and put their
addresses in the Bcc: field of the address instead of Cc:. This simple step will slow the
spread of viruses that are distributed via e-mail and will help protect the privacy of your
These are the most important steps you can take to maximize your protection against viruses, short of enterprise-level security and firewalls. Any computer that is connected to the Internet should have at least a software firewall installed and running full-time. Most users would also benefit from a full Internet Security Suite of software, Group Policies, and extra security settings in your gateway/router and your browser for additional protection.
Copyright 2013 by Ken Dwight, “The Virus Doctor™,” Houston, Texas. All rights reserved. Ken is a Computer Consultant, Speaker, and Trainer, and Author of the IPPY Award-winning book Bug-Free Computing: Stop Viruses, Squash Worms, and Smash Trojan Horses. For reprint rights, or to inquire about booking Ken for your next Conference, Convention, or
Company Meeting, contact us at www.thevirusdoc.com or phone (281) 537-0252.