Viruses are an inescapable part of the Internet experience.
Depending on the virus, the effect can range from amusing to devastating. When it comes to dealing with the hazards posed by viruses, prevention is much easier than a cure. The following tips will prevent most viruses from ever affecting your computer or computer system.
1. Beware of unexpected or unsolicited email attachments Because email is one of the primary ways to exchange information among Internet users, it is also a key method for spreading viruses. A basic plain text email is unable to transmit most viruses. It is the attachment to the email that contains the potential hazard. If the attachment is unexpected or unsolicited and from an unknown sender, the wisest decision would be to delete the email without opening the attachment. If the email is from a known and trusted source, but you did not expect an attached file from that source, you may want to contact the sender to confirm that the attachment is legitimate.
2. Use an anti-virus program to regularly scan your hard drive Even when you exercise reasonable caution, you may still be infected by a virus. An anti-virus program can be set up to regularly check your computer or even your incoming email attachments for viruses. This kind of program may even be able to constantly run in the background as you go about your work. Because viruses are being constantly created or changed, it is important to use a program that provides regular updates.
3. Use an anti-virus program to scan all incoming email attachments and all files or programs that came from someone else's computer Whenever someone puts a file or a program on their computer, there is always some risk that some virus may infect that file or program and remain undetected. By scanning all incoming files and programs, you may uncover a virus that the other person may have overlooked.
4. Update your anti-virus program regularly New or improved viruses are being regularly unleashed on the Internet. Updating your anti-virus software so that it contains the latest virus definitions will decrease the likelihood that you are affected by a new type of virus.
5. Back up your data files on a regular basis In a worst case scenario, a virus may corrupt or destroy data on one or more files. Regular backups will allow you to recover more easily in the event that a virus damages your files.
6. Purchase or obtain files or software only from trusted sources- When a retailer offers new software at a price that is much lower compared to the manufacturer's prices or prices charged by most retailers, that software is likely not an authorized copy. This kind of software poses many risks, including a higher risk of having one or more viruses. This tip is relevant to software or files that are downloaded over the Internet, that come as attachments to email, or that is purchased at a store.
7. Avoid forwarding email attachments unless you first scan the attachment for viruses If you have an anti-virus program that scans all incoming email attachments, or if you scan the attachment after it arrives, then it is probably safe to forward the attachment. Otherwise, do not forward the attachment.
8. Look for an unexpected file extension on any attachment If the subject line or the body of an email states that the attachment is a certain type of file or if the file icon implies a certain type of file and the file extension does not match, delete the file. If you trust the sender, contact that person to determine what you were supposed to have received.
9. Data files will not carry viruses A file that contains only data will not carry a virus since a virus has to have some kind of executable code. For example, files ending with the extension .txt, .csv, .gif, .jpg, .mp3, .wav are common data files that would not have executable code. Files ending in .doc, .xls, .exe, and even .htm may have executable code and could potentially carry a virus.
10. Write-protect floppy disks that will be used in a read only mode If you are sharing data that resides on disks or other portable storage media, use the write-protect tab to prevent an accidental insertion of a virus.