Household Ways to Protect Your Computer From Viruses
Computer viruses are deadly. They often spread without any apparent contact and can be a nuisance, or even worse, fatal to your computer.
Catching a Virus:
Most viruses are spread through e-mail attachments because it's the easiest way to do it. Although Macintosh, Unix, and Linux systems can catch viruses, hackers are particularly keen on exploiting the security weaknesses in anything Microsoft, particularly Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express.
Your first line of defense is to install anti-virus software. To be extra safe, also install firewall software, which is now included in some anti-virus packages. This software can scan all of your drives for viruses and neutralize them.
Here are some features to consider when evaluating anti-virus software.
The Virus Scan
If you receive a particularly juicy attachment that you're dying to open, save it on your Windows desktop and run your anti-virus software on it first.
To do this, click once gently on the file on your desktop ... don't actually open it ... then right click and choose Scan with (Name of Anti-Virus Software) to activate a virus scan.
If it's infected, your anti-virus software may neutralize it, or at least tell you the attachment is too dangerous to open. On the other hand, don't feel guilty if the very thought of saving a potentially damaging file anywhere on your system is enough to quell your eagerness to open it and make you delete it immediately.
Delete first, ask questions later.
When in doubt about the origin of an e-mail, the best thing to do is delete it without previewing or opening it. However, some viruses, such as Klez, propagate by fishing in people's address books and sending themselves from any contact they find to another random contact.
You can spread a virus just by having people in your address book, even if you don't actually e-mail them anything.
They'll receive it from someone else in your address book, which really makes life confusing. Because of the proliferation of porn on the internet, e-mail viruses often tempt victims by using sexual file names, such as nudes.exe. Don't fall for it.
Beware of virus hoaxes
E-mails warning you about viruses are almost always hoaxes. You may be tempted to believe them because you typically receive them from well-meaning friends, who received them from friends, etc.
These e-mails themselves usually aren't viruses, but some have actually fallen into the hands of hackers who loaded them with viruses and forwarded them merrily on their way as a sick joke.
The extension of a file name is the three characters that come after the dot. Windows now defaults to hiding file name extensions, but it isn't a good idea.
Just being able to see a suspicious extension and deleting the file before opening it can save you from a virus infection.
To see file name extensions in all your directory listings, on the Windows XP desktop, click Start button | Control Panels | Folder Options | View Tab.
Clear the check box for Hide extensions of known file types. Click Apply | OK.
System files will still be hidden, but you'll be able to see extensions for all the files you need to be concerned with.
Viruses often live on files with these extensions - .vbs, .shs, .pif, .Ink - and they are almost never legitimately used for attachments.
Disable the .shs extension
One dangerous extension you can easily disable is .shs.
Windows won't recognize it and will alert you before attempting to open an .shs file. The extension is usually just used for "scrap object" files created in Word and Excell when you highlight text and drag it to the desktop for pasting into other documents.
If this isn't something you ever do, or you have Word and Excell 2000 or later, which allow you to have 12 items on the Clipboard, click the Start button | Control Panel | Folder Options | File Types tab.
Under Registered file types, scroll down and highlight the SHS extension. Click Delete | Yes | Apply | OK.
Dealing with double extensions
When you turn on your extensions in Windows, you'll be able to detect viruses that piggy-back themselves onto innocent looking files with a double extension, such as happybirthday.doc.exe. NEVER trust a file with a double extension - it goes against nature.
Beware of unknown .exe files
A virus is a program that must be executed to do its dirty work, so it may have an .exe extension. Unfortunately, this is the same extension used by legitimate program files.
So, don't panic if you find files named Word.exe or Excel.exe on your system - they're your Microsoft software. Just don't EVER open any file with an .exe extension if you don't know what the file's purpose is.
Watch out for icons
Viruses in attachment files have been known to assume the shape of familiar looking icons of text or picture files, like the wolf in the hen house.
If you recieve an unexpected attachment, don't open it without first running it through your anti-virus software.
Don't download from public newgroups
What better place for a hacker to lurk and stick his virus than in the middle of a crowd? Sooner or later, someone's bound to download it and get the virus going.
Don't download files and programs from newsgroups or bulletin boards, or open attachments sent from strangers in chatrooms ("Let's exchange pictures!") without first scanning with your anti-virus software.
Avoid bootleg software
This may seem like a no brainer, but sometimes that tiny price tag on a popular but expensive package can be too good to resist. Resist it!
Likewise, be careful about accepting application software from others.
Protect macros in MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint
A common type of virus uses macros. Macros are sets of stored commands that users can save as shortcuts to perform long functions in just a few keystrokes.
A macro virus may perform such mischief as changing file types from text files or spreadsheets into templates, locking up keyboards, and deleting files. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint come with macro virus protection.
To make sure yours is activated, open each application, then click Tools menu | Macro | Security. On the Security Level tab, make sure Medium or High is selected. Clcik OK.
If you are already infected with a macro virus, you may find that the steps of this procedure are unavailable becasue the virus has disabled them. In that event, run a virus scan on your system to see if your anti-virus software can kill the virus.
If you share your computer, it's a good idea to assign everyone a password. Passwords should be a combination of letters and numbers no less than eight characters long, and preferably nonsensical.
Never write passwords and stick them anywhere near the computer. To assign passwords in Windows XP, click the Start button | Control Panel | User Accounts. Follow the prompts to assign/change passwords.
Update application software
Microsoft constantly issues patches for the security holes in its operating system and applications software. however, don't be lulled into complacency if you have Windows Update automatically checking things for you.
Update checks for patches to repair bugs in the operating system, not for security problems.
By: Mugambi Lloyd Kevin (firstname.lastname@example.org)