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How to stay Virus FREE! - iSAFE Managed IT Service Provider

How to stay Virus FREE!

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While the rule of thumb is that any computer can get infected with a virus, no matter what the protection or how careful the user, there are some things you can do to further protect yourself against infection.

 The basics

You must always keep your virus protection up to date.  That means both the virus definitions and the “engine” or software that runs the protection.  For instance if you have up to date definitions but you are running Norton Antivirus 2005 (it is now 2011), you are putting yourself at risk because the program itself is out of date.  We at iSTAM recommend only updating your annual definitions subscription 1 time.  The next year you should just buy the new program.

 Never trust “free” anti-virus programs.  Many third party vendors such as AVG and Avast have offered such “entry level” programs for years, but we had to ask ourselves, “what motivation do they have to keep up with the latest definitions”.  iSTAM recommended Panda for years because they were very aggressive at releasing patches for new viruses – sometimes several times a day.  However, we stopped supporting them because their technical support was horrible.  Now we only recommend our iSAFE monitoring solution with integrated Anti-virus protection, monitoring of that protection and other aspects of your computer performance and health.

 And for those who are considering switching to a Mac because “they don’t get viruses” – consider the fact that they’ve never really had to fight viruses.  My concern is that as Apple continues to grow in popularity, they will eventually come under attack.  When they do, then suddenly, Microsoft will be 20 years ahead of them in experience protecting their OS from viruses.

 AV Only

Never pay extra for “Internet Security” Suites which charge you for features that are already integrated into the Microsoft OS – they cost more and they slow your computer down.  Keep your windows up to date and buy just the AV protection.

 Free Web Sites

Stay away from sites that offer anything for “free”.  If whatever your looking for really is “free” then someone is paying for it.  That usually means their is a financial force behind the site that is paying for advertising, or information collecting malware which will soon be installed on your PC.  Go to the legit sites and pay the price offered because it is almost always cheaper than the cost of lost productivity, information, and your computer repair bill 🙂

 Internet Explorer Plugins and Toolbars

If you see more than one or two rows of icons at the top of your Internet Explorer window right now, you are probably infected with at least one virus.  These programs while marketing special features such as “search protection”, or “shopping links” are often poorly written, not frequently updated, slow down your Internet browsing and open up security holes for viruses to get on your computer.

 Information Tray Apps

Never install a weather bug, local news or any other app that is placed in your system tray (lower right next to the clock) to get you “information faster”.  Open up a web browser and type in the address.  It is not that hard – it is almost as fast – and your computer keeps working like it supposed to.  Many of those apps have a texting service if you really want to know what the breaking story on the 6:00PM news is going to be at 5:30PM or if you want to know when that big storm is going to hit.

 Third Party Mail and Messenger Apps

Never install Yahoo Mail, Messenger, Google apps, Facebook apps ect. on your local computer.  Open Internet explorer and type in the address (or use your favorites list).  These programs open nearly constant connections between your computer and these sites via the Internet and open even more security holes on your computer.  These also slow down your Internet/network browsing experience.

 Local Access Accounts

Never use an account with full administrative privileges.  Windows 7 tries to address this issue by implementing the annoying UAC or User Account Control.  What it does is limit your ability to perform certain system changing tasks without a secondary level of confirmation.  The best way however, is to create a user account in windows that you use every day and an administrative account that you can use if you need to install a program or change the system settings.  The reason why is that almost every program – and therefore almost every virus – has whatever permissions the currently logged in user has.  If you are logged into an account with administrative privilidges and you inadvertently open a virus – that virus can do just about anything it wants – because it has your permissions.  Many users who follow this rule will get a window indicating that a virus is trying to install – the antivirus app also pops up a message that the file is infected – the user restarts and the system is fine, because the virus could not completely roll itself out.  Those who do not follow this rule and use an administrative account all the time, may never see any indication all of the infection.  They continue working, wondering why their computer is so slow lately while it is sending out a million messages a day – until the ISP cuts off their Internet service.


Most people know by now not to open attachments.  The new craze has been legitimate site impersonation.  You may see an email from UPS indicating that your package could not be delivered.  Most of us would over look and delete this message, unless we just sent a package via UPS, which the sender is counting on a good percentage of people falling for.  Whether the message is from facebook, UPS, the IRS, your bank or any company that you deal with regularly – NEVER open any attachement they send you and ALWAYS check the URL of any links in the message before you click on them.  Hint: No matter what the links in a message say – if you mouse over them, the real address will be shown near the bottom of the window in Outlook.  Read carefully because some try to deceive even further by utilizing the real companies name in the address such as www.microsoft.forme.com.  This is not a Microsoft address – always check the letters to the immediate left of the TLD (top level domain – .com, .net, .org).  This address will take you to a site owned by “forme.com.”

 Pop Up Requests

One of the latest trends are sites that pop up a message indicating that some component needs to be installed or updated in order to view the web site such as Java or Flash.  If you get a pop-up like this or any other questionable pop up message, DO NOT click OK, Cancel, or any other button on the window.  Just because it says cancel, doesn’t mean that is what it has been programmed by the malware writer to do.  When you click a button in a browser window, your computer, Internet browser, and your Anti-Virus program all agree “This user wants whatever is about to happen to happen, or they wouldn’t have clicked that button”.  You are basically giving permission for the virus to download and install.  If you can’t close the window any other way, use control+alt+delete, start task manager, and kill your Internet browser completely.  Then re-open your browser and try a different web site.

  These are just a few things you can do to help keep your computer virus free for the winter.

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