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By Steve Kozy, IT Professional – Nashville Office

Virus & Spyware protection is the most important software you’ll ever install on your PC or Mac. Our little shop averages over 5 infection fixes a week. These PCs almost always have adequate virus protection installed, but somehow still get infected. How can that happen? This article is dedicated to keeping you as safe as possible when surfing the Internet or answering email.

Virus protection is a complex subject. Complex to the point where you could have college degrees dedicated to it, and Masters programs covering the removal of the nastiest ones. Believe me, there are certain virus types, known as “rootkits,” which are almost impossible to recover from. In fact, part of the grade in a Masters program would be to know when the situation is hopeless – just give up, backup the client’s data (twice, just in case), format the hard drive and start from scratch.

I’m sure none of you want to attend Virus U., so this “cliff notes” article will give you the most important info from each of the five subjects in the Software Knowledge’s Virus Protection series. This material is presented in laymen’s terms as much as possible.

A)  Your #1 protection against Viruses – automate the backup of your most important files

Interesting way to start off this series, but it simply can’t be overlooked. It happened more back in the DOS days, but we tackled a virus last month that actually deleted files from a PC. These are rare, but of course the most dangerous. A Fortune 500 company caught one of these babies and it wiped out the data on several of the company’s massive servers. That catastrophe started at one lonely PC on the network, and then spread like a Justin Bieber YouTube video.

No matter how much money you spend, you are never fully protected from the Lex Luthers who create viruses. Therefore, your only real protection is to backup your data properly, and test your backups from time to time to insure your data is safe (useable).

Backing up PC data properly is an entire degree w/Masters program by itself, but here is one of the tips from our website that you need to know right now: use USB flash sticks or external hard drives. Do not use CDs or DVDs. The average usable life of a DVD burned on a PC is only two years; CDs are like 7 years. You might lose half the pictures you burned to DVD for safe keeping within two short years…your kid’s pictures…what a disaster.

B) What are Viruses and who creates them?

Viruses are infections that get injected into the Operating System {Windows XP, Mac os10, Windows7, etc.} of your computer. These infections are just little sub-programs that now start automatically every time you turn the PC on. The number of documented viruses in the world hit one million in 2009. Each of these tiny programs may do different things, but all have one thing in common: they want control of your computer.

My all-time most popular question from clients on this subject is: “Who creates these things?” I always come back with my pat answer: “Some kid in Cambodia who’s perfecting his IT skills, so he can come to the US and make big bucks.” Substitute China, India, the Ukraine (my homeland; the best virus writers in the world come from this part of Mother Russia), and that answer becomes very valid. Over 50% of all viruses were created by students in college classrooms.

C) Our review of the Virus Protection software currently on the market

We hate Norton Security Suite. Kinda hate AVG these days; we used to like it. Always hated McAfee (we had a slogan back in the Windows95 day; “I would rather have a virus on my computer rather than McAfee anti-virus; the PC still might work with just a virus”).

Software Knowledge uses several small (free) tools, along with our favorite “always-on” protection programs. We currently recommend the combination of Malwarebytes & Microsoft Security Essentials to our clients. This is the fourth always-on protection solution we’ve used in the last 7 years. You might be interested, maybe shocked, by the reasons why we keep changing…

D) What to do if you catch a Virus

Don’t panic! And please don’t break out the VISA and buy the program you see on your screen.

Close your Internet browser and open your always-on virus protection. Try to perform an update (but the best-written viruses usually break this and you might get an error). Try updating any other anti-virus/anti-malware programs you have installed; these updates may also fail. Disconnect your LAN cable or turn off your wireless signal, reboot (restart) your computer, and then try to run your always-on AV program. If it catches something, tell it to remove, and then restart the PC again. Continue by running the next AV program you have. If you still have problems, get to a PC that works and study this full subject on our website.

One quick tip (that few people think about): Get to a clean PC and change your online banking passwords. Better safe…

E) Why doesn’t your Firewall protect you? And other advanced topics

Unless you bought a $500US hardware firewall device, and then paid a firm like ours to configure & fine-tune your “proxy” settings (about another $500US), your firewall is Swiss cheese…and even if you have this level of protection {like we do}, you’re still cheese… just like us. Trust me.

In Summary:

  1. Backup your files regularly!
  2. Do not take viruses personally
  3. Run good ‘always-on’ protection & keep it updated
  4. All hope is NOT lost if you catch a virus
  5. The worst viruses are written by really gifted people; there will never be a cure in our lifetime…

This article originally appeared on biznik.com in 2010. It remains in their website’s Top 10 all-time most read list. Steve Kozy is an IT Professional in Holladay Properties’ Nashville Office and the President of The Software Knowledge Co, Inc.

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