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Reduce The Risk Of Computer Infections


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#1 A Former Geek

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 07:50 PM

The information below is an excerpt from a book that I'm currently writing for normal people - not geeks. I have posted similar information before, but this provides a little more explanation.



How To Reduce The Risk Of Getting Infected
While it is impossible to reduce the risk of becoming infected to zero percent, there are practices that you can implement to reduce the risk to close to zero.



1. Email attachments may contain malware. Do not open an email attachment unless it is something that you expected to receive from someone that you know. Notice that I did not say that it is always safe to open an email attachment from people that you know because it is possible that they did not actually send it (their email account may have been hacked) or they forwarded you an attachment that they did not know was actually infected. Just say no to email attachments unless it is from someone you know and the attachment is something you expected to receive like pictures from a family reunion or a promised document.

2. Don't click on links in an email. A link could lead you to a phishing site, or the link may lead you to a site that installs malicious software on your computer. One of the best examples of this that is happening at the time of this writing is an email that appears to come from the popular social networking site Facebook. The content of the email will say something to the effect that a new picture or video that pertains to you has been posted on Facebook. The email will contain a link for you to click on that will supposedly take you to the picture or video in Facebook. The link may take you to the actual Facebook site (which means the email is legitimate) or it may take you to a page that is a phishing site or a page that will infect your computer. Instead of clicking the link, go to Facebook and logon and see if you have a notification about the referenced picture or video. If you do, you can access it directly from Facebook rather than clicking the email link. If you do not, you will know that the email was malicious.

3. Emails that use the HTML format can contain malware. HTML, which stands for HyperText Markup Language, is a language that is used to create web pages. It can also be used to create emails that contain advanced graphics such as pictures and specially formatted text. Because HTML is essentially a programming language, it is capable of containing malicious code that will infect your computer. Because of this fact, I recommend turning off the HTML email feature and using plain text. If you do this, you will have the option of turning it on for any specific received email which you consider safe. The procedure for turning HTML off varies depending on how you access your email and your email provider. Regardless of whether you get your mail on the web (webmail) or through a desktop program (such as Outlook), I would encourage you to do some research and find out how to turn off the HTML feature.

4. Do not download files from sites that you are not sure are absolutely safe. Your bank's site and other widely known high profile sites should be safe. A small and relatively unknown site would require extra scrutiny before downloading a file.

5. Stay away from sites and programs that enable you to download the latest music, movies and other content for free. This temptation overwhelms many teenagers and some adults too for that matter. Many of the downloads will contain malicious software and it is also illegal as you are breaking the copyright law by stealing from the company that produced the media. YouTube and television network sites that make content available for viewing online are legal. YouTube constantly receives take-down notices from copyright holders and my personal feeling is that the legal burden rests with YouTube (and the uploader) rather than the computer user.

6. Occasionally you may arrive at a website that states that you must download a program or browser plug-in in order to view the content on the site. Many times this is an attempt to install malicious software on your machine. However, it is possible that you are missing a legitimate program that is needed. In that case, the site should tell you what it is that you need. If you recognize the software vendor's name such as Apple for the QuickTi me Player or Adobe for the Flash Player, then go to Apple or Adobe's site to download the necessary software instead of clicking a link on the page.

7. Turn on Windows Automatic Updates. Some people mistakenly believe that the updates are just enhancements to the operating system and are not necessary. In reality, most of the updates are security related and it is critical that they be installed in order to minimize the risk of infection. Currently, Microsoft issues updates on the second Tuesday of every month, but they may issue updates at anytime depending on the severity of any new found threat.

8. Along with keeping Windows up to date, you must also make sure that other programs are updated. Many programs can contain flaws that could allow bad things to happen to your computer. Because of this, the software manufacturers release updates. Most programs will check for updates regularly and notify you if there are any available. Two examples of such programs are Adobe Reader and Java.

9. Make sure that you have an up to date antivirus program and do regular scans with it. I find that some of my customers have out of date or expired AV programs which afford no protection against malware that was written after the program expired. The software manufacturers push out updates everyday in order to detect the latest Malware. Paid AV solutions require a yearly renewal fee although you may be able to purchase multiple years at a time. (Most new computers come with a free 30 to 90 day AV trial and it is fine to use. Just do not let it expire before getting another solution). If you use a free AV, you can expect that the manufacturer will come out with a new version from time to time which will require that you upgrade in order to remain protected. Regardless of whether you use a free AV solution or a paid one, you should make sure that a scan is performed at least once per week or anytime something out of the ordinary is happening. Almost all programs have the ability to schedule a scan at a particular time and day of the week.


You may have noticed that out of all of my tips for reducing the risk of infection, having an AV program was mentioned last. This was not by accident but rather by design. While having an AV program is important it should be considered the secondary and last line of defense rather than the primary defense since there is no guarantee that it will protect you from every possible threat. Your behavior is much more important than any protective software. Using the analogy of operating a vehicle safely, a seatbelt and airbag are also considered secondary to safety. The real goal is to never to be involved in an accident where reliance on a seatbelt or airbag is even needed. We all know that there are certain behaviors that can increase the risk of an automobile accident just as there are behaviors that increase the risk of a computer infection which I previously explained. In both cases, if you always practice safe procedures the risk is greatly reduced.
  • Deputy Gomer Pyle, MillCreek and Barbed wire like this



#2 MillCreek

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 08:15 PM

All Valid Points, Mike -- It's Always Helpful to Keeping Bringing these Points Up for those who may not be aware, as well as for Reminders!!! :good: :good: :good:

#3 cmorg

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 08:17 PM

That's great advice...

But I was expecting tips on how to avoid becoming infected by zombies.

---




You are so wonderful. And smart.


#4 LPPT

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 08:21 PM

That's great advice...

But I was expecting tips on how to avoid becoming infected by zombies.


OOPs I thought um maybe I shouldn't say it out loud it is a CM's thread and we can get a bullet for hijacking,

Wrapping fingers in duct tape and sitting on them hard!!!

Thanks for the temptation Mike!
I will do my best to protect myself :ninja:

El Zorro

 

As far as releasing my name here, it's not going to happen.  There have been people here who found someone's given name and then found where they worked and made things difficult for them - all because they didn't like them here because of their political opinions.

 


#5 mei lan

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 09:04 PM

5. Stay away from sites and programs that enable you to download the latest music, movies and other content for free. This temptation overwhelms many teenagers and some adults too for that matter. Many of the downloads will contain malicious software and it is also illegal as you are breaking the copyright law by stealing from the company that produced the media. YouTube and television network sites that make content available for viewing online are legal. YouTube constantly receives take-down notices from copyright holders and my personal feeling is that the legal burden rests with YouTube (and the uploader) rather than the computer user.


This one is a BIGGIE. I haven't even had a virus in FOREVER (and have never lost a computer to one...now, lightning - that's a different matter... :angry2:), but my brother has lost THREE computers in the past three years. They have antivirus, but not a good one, and not a firewall, I'm pretty sure. But the worst thing is that they let my nephew (age 14) hang out on all these game web sites. I swear that's what does it. I don't let him do that when he's here.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116


#6 A Former Geek

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 09:22 PM

That's great advice...

But I was expecting tips on how to avoid becoming infected by zombies.


That's a project on hold as there seems to be some debate about how to protest yourself.

OOPs I thought um maybe I shouldn't say it out loud it is a CM's thread and we can get a bullet for hijacking,

Wrapping fingers in duct tape and sitting on them hard!!!

Thanks for the temptation Mike!
I will do my best to protect myself :ninja:


Topic title has been changed. I really don't mind the hijacking. Stay safe out there. :D






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