Step 3. Use antivirus software
The Danger: Computer viruses can
cripple your computer and destroy your data.
The cause: There are an incredible variety of
computer viruses on the Internet, with many different ways of infecting your
system. The stereotypical vector for viruses is the email attachment, and
this is still the most common source of infection for unwary users.
Opening up a seemingly innocent attachment from a friend can have disastrous
consequences. There are few computer users who have not experienced the
effects of a computer virus at some point, and malicious coders keep churning
The cure: Install and use a professional
Using an antivirus software package from a
reputable manufacturer like Symantec or MacAfee provides an effective defence
against viruses. You should scan your system for viruses once a week at
least, and use the software to examine any email attachments you are unsure
about. Many packages, like Norton Antivirus, come with auto-protection
features which will scan any files entering or leaving your system for
While this is fairly self explanatory, a couple of
extra tips: if you're going to buy and install anti-virus software, do it
now, before you get infected with a virus, rather than waiting until your system
starts to act up. The reason for this is that many viruses have components
that can disable or subvert popular antivirus programs like Norton's and
MacAfee's software. So if your system is infected before you install the
antivirus software, it may not be able to help you.
Secondly, make sure you keep the program
updated. Antivirus software manufacturers are constantly creating new sets
of virus definitions to keep up with new threats. Without updated
definitions, the software will not stop newer viruses from infecting your
PC. Most reputable antivirus programs will update themselves automatically
when you are connected to the Internet, but it doesn't hurt to make sure you
have the latest update before you scan for viruses.
Step 4. Check your PC for spyware and
The Danger: Spyware and Adware programs can
quickly infest your PC, compromising privacy and performance.
The cause: Spyware and adware are generic names for a variety of programs
designed to collect data and/or advertise products. Sound innocent? The catch is that
these programs are often installed on your PC from websites or as
part of 'free' software like Kazaa, and work from inside your computer, gathering information
about your surfing habits for marketing purposes. Worse, this is only the
tip of the iceberg.
Programs in this category may call up extra pop-up
advertising while you are surfing, or even redirect your browser to websites of
their own choosing. While makers of this type of software need to obtain your
consent to install their programs, they are often presented in misleading ways,
or hidden within the license agreements of other software.
There is a second category of programs involved as
well, browser hijackers. These malicious programs can subvert your web
browser's home page and links and generally cannot be removed without great
difficulty. At their worst, these programs can make using your
computer a trial. System and Internet performance can be slowed due to the
extra data being sent from your computer, and floods of (often obscene)
advertisements may dog your Internet surfing experience.
For more details, see PCSTATS guides on spyware, adware and browser