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How to Protect your PC


So what can you do to avoid getting infected?  I get this question so much, I should have it to memory.  The truth be told, the reasons why you may get malware changes daily.  So many technologies evolve that it is hard to keep pace.  However, in general, there are many things we know that will get you bitten.  Follow along kids!

What is Malware?

Quite simply, malware is the collective name for a whole category of programs and infections that harm your computer.  From a computer virus to Trojan horses, spyware, adware to sneakware, they all are different annoyances that can cause your computer harm.  For years we differentiated between all of them, but their cumulative impact on your computer is the same, hence, one term for them.  This video from CNET, is a nice start in understanding what the difference is between a virus and spyware.

Avoid Sneakware!

Sneakware applies to programs that you unknowingly install on your computer that either hogs resources or serve as just advertisement for some other software.  You commonly will find that when you install a program that you do want, one of the windows you click through (without reading), asks you to install a third party software (ie. Norton Security Scan).  These are programs that you did not want to install. To avoid this from happening, read through each screen when installing software.  The sneakware will be checked, simply uncheck it and continue installing the software that you do want.

Failing to Update Software

When talking about updates, most of us are of the mindset that we are talking about Windows.  Actually, most don't keep Windows updated, either.  Besides Windows, it is almost equally important to keep other software up to date.  In particular, you should always keep Flash, Java and Adobe Reader up to date.  Although Windows is the most targeted software for Malware, the above mentioned are also targeted.  Why, cause almost everybody has them on their computers and more importantly, very few ever update them. As a result, it tends to be easier to target flaws in those programs to exploit than Windows.  Windows can at least force you or inform you of a critical update to fix any bugs, very few even here about updates for the other programs.  

In short, (too late for that), you should routinely check all your software for updates.  The whole point of the updates is to fix or correct any problems the publisher has with the software.  Most of those fixes are directed at security.  Do not ignore updating.

Downloading copyrighted software, music and video

We all loved Napster.   A program that almost introduced the masses to the ease of piracy.  The issue with downloading illegal content is not always relegated to the issue that it's illegal.  Malware creators realize the lengths we would go to see the latest movie for free or to download the latest CD from our favorite singer.  When downloading, it is a confusing world to navigate, so malware creators litter those sites with virus' masquerading as the latest Top ten song or top selling movie.  You download it, click to play does not play.  You think nothing of significance of it, delete the file and move on.  You find out shortly that it didnt play because it was not a song, you installed a virus.  Often, you will get a message telling you that you need to update your video codecs.  Don't do that, you are only being tricked into installing a Trojan.  Trend Micro has an excellent article showing you how this works.  See it here.  In general, if you want copyrighted material, adhere to the copyright and pay for it.  The cost of trying to get it free, could be a call to me.

Free Porn

One of the first principals to acknowledge about the internet is that nothing is completely free.  There is a reason the porn industry is losing DVD sales.  The explosion of porn on the Internet is extraordinary.  You literally can find anything you want to see sexually.  Many are free, but few should ever be trusted.  When you come across a "free" site, many are littered with infected ads and banners.  When you click on one, it may or may not install malware on your system or show you scareware to try to get you to install malware.  I'm a bit reluctant in saying the obvious about not visiting porn sites, but I will say it anyway, "Don't go to porn sites", just remember to clear your browser when you are done so the kids wont see what you do after they go to sleep......

Searching for Celebrity Gossip, (sex tapes, rumors)

As a celebrity obsessed nation, malware creators obviously will put their software on those sites dedicated to gossip and celebrities

Answering Spam

There is a simple reason why Yahoo Mail has a spam folder.  Even they see the utter uselessness of spam, but they want to make sure you get a chance to see every email, so they keep it in that folder.   Answering spam is foolish in so many ways, but I will only hit upon some of the biggest reasons.  One, like telemarketers, spam would go away within a week if everybody ignored it.  Spam stays around because it works!  To the educated user, we can tell that the product being sold is either worthless or a rip-off, but you are not the majority out there sitting behind the monitor.  Most PC users are not aware of what spam is, so it flourishes.  Two, a good portion of spam links or directs you to infected websites.  Simply landing on the website can be enough to zing you.

Downloading attachments in Email:

Under no circumstances should you open attachments in an email that you are not expecting or have no idea of what it may be.  Simply opening the attachment is enough to infect your computer.  If you are expecting a PowerPoint presentation from your boss, that generally is safe.  If you get a picture from 19 year old Celeste from the Balkans, it probably is trouble.


This is not as big of a problem as it used to be.  In general, if you get an advertisement popup, treat it like spam, because that is what it really is.  Never respond to surprise popups or do anything they tell you to do.  Simply clicking on the popup is dangerous.  Try clicking on the exit button in the upper right-hand corner of the popup to close.  To be even more secure in closing it, start the task manager (Ctrl-Alt-Del) and select the Application tab, find your internet browser listed and click "End Task".  Scareware is a form of a popup.  The popup intends to scare you into an action not in your best interest.  The typical one is that the popup says you are infected with (insert your own number) virus'.  To prevent further damage and/or loss of data, install (insert latest crooked software name) and pay (any sum between $30-89). Of course this is a scam.  Never respond to any program other than your anti virus that informs you that you are infected.  Chances are you really are infected, but answering that popup will make it worse.  This video from CNET shows you how to properly close pop-ups.

Turn on Your Firewall:

By Default, the Windows Firewall is turned on, if it is not, turn it on. 

Flash Drives:

Human nature indicates that if you find a flash drive on the street, you would pick it up, take it work or home and plug it in.  Don't lie, you want to see what interesting things are on it.  Malware creators are on to you.  They simply create malware put it on a flash drive and leave it somewhere.  Odds are high that you are going to stick it in and look.  Now this example is a bit harsh (although true, this is how many business networks get hacked, let an unsuspecting employee find it, plug it in on their work pc and now the virus is in the network), it illustrates a greater point, that you should not simply insert flash memory media into your computer unless you have a reasonable assurance of what it is or contains.

Beware of Malware pretending to be an Anti-Virus program

On of the more insidious tricks that you may encounter is malware pretending to be an Anti-virus program.  They generally will show up as a pop-up telling you that you are infected and to install their program to clean your computer.  As a rule, never install anything that tells you that your computer is infected.  This article by Tim Smith from will provide you with a quick education on how this works.