Avoiding Viruses and Trojans Browsing the Internet

January 3, 2009

in Internet,privacy & security

by Tina Gasperson

The Microsoft Windows operating system dominates the computer market. Research shows that 90 percent of computers run some form of Windows. The popularity of this operating system means that there is an abundance of software available to make your computer more useful and powerful. Unfortunately, it also means that Windows is a prime target for people who create little software programs known as computer viruses and “Trojans.” These programs are designed to wreak havoc in your computer for the benefit of someone else. Their gain could be that these unsavory characters can now use your computer as their own spam server, gain access your credit accounts, or simply get the satisfaction of knowing they’ve brought your system to a screeching halt and you may have to spend lots of time and money getting it fixed.

So how can you avoid getting infected by one of these rogue programs? There are several precautions you can take to protect your computer while you’re out “surfing the ‘Net.”

1. Make sure your antivirus program is running in real-time mode in order to catch viruses, tracking cookies, and Trojans before they can infect your system.

2. Keep your firewall running at all times. The firewall adds an extra layer of protection before your computer and the Internet, blocking any attempts to access your system from outside your home network.

3. Develop a healthy sense of suspicion. Don’t click on any old link that happens to show up in your email, even if it looks like your friend sent it to you. It’s possible that your friend got infected and the virus is now looking for ways to replicate by targeting you.

4. Never give out your login and password information to anyone over the phone, through email, or on an unfamiliar Web site. This “social engineering” is one way that the bad guys try to get access to your private information.

5. Don’t download software unless you know it comes from an impeccable source. Viruses and Trojans often come embedded in the installation files for applications and games, especially pirated ones. Chances are you won’t even realize that you’ve been infected until it is too late.

6. Control access to your computer. Make sure you know who is using it and for what purposes. It’s nice to share, but sometimes the worst damage to your computer comes from the neighbor kids who don’t realize it’s not good practice to turn off the antivirus and download pirated games and music onto your system.

If you follow these steps, you’re more likely to keep your computer free of viruses and Trojans.

Tina Gasperson (tinahdee@gmail.com), affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.