What to do about Computer Viruses

How to Deal with Computer Viruses

There are many ways in which a virus can infect your PC. But regardless of weather it is a harmful virus or an annoying "practical joke," it is dangerous to let one loose on your system, and it should be dealt with immediately.

Whether you are connected to the Internet or not, it is safest to have an antivirus program installed on your computer. If you are connected to the Internet, it is basically a must.

Types of Antivirus Programs

There are two types of anti virus programs. Both do more or less the same thing, but use different methods. Both types of programs are constantly on the lookout for viruses on your computer, but they do so in different ways.

The first one keeps a list of known viruses and virus types, called "virus definitions." This list of virus definitions is called a virus library. It constantly looks through your computer, checking to see if anything coming into your computer is a virus. It does so by comparing all things coming in with what it has stored in its "virus library".

Any file, document, or program coming into your computer is inspected and compared to this library to see if it matches any of the "virus definitions." One disadvantage of this system is that if a new virus comes out that is different than the viruses stored in your library, this type of antivirus program will not detect it and will allow it onto your computer.

When using such a program, it is important to have a subscription, and to be connected to the Internet, so that your virus definitions are constantly updated. New viruses come out every day. If you choose such a program, one of the things to check for is how often the virus definitions are updated. This will play an important role in keeping your computer safe.

The second type of anti-virus program is called a HEURISTIC program. "Heuristic" means "learning by discovery or trail and error." It comes from the Greek word "heuriskin," which means "to discover".

In other words, the program is capable of discovering new viruses not already known. It is written in such a way that it is able to learn and discover new viruses, without having to refer to a library. This program will most likely also have a library of virus definitions. But in addition to detecting already known viruses, it is able to detect new viruses, and is therefore a more secure program.

Will My Antivirus Program Drain my Computer of Energy?

One final thing to take into account, when choosing an anti-virus program, is how much computer power your anti-virus program uses. It is all fine to have the biggest antivirus program in the world, but that might not leave much computer power left for you to run your other programs. This is an important factors for you to take into account. Otherwise, you may run into a situation where, instead of viruses slowing your computer down, your antivirus program is slowing your computer down!

Some of the common Antivirus programs are as follows:

Kaspersky Antivirus

AVG Free Anti-Virus

Panda Software Anti-Virus Products

Trend Micro


Panda Software Anti-Virus Products

For reviews of these antivirus programs and my own experience with them, please see the post here:

Reviews of Antivirus Programs

What You Can Do to Protect Others from Phishers

(if you have not read the description of what phishing is you may see it here).

Helping Protect Others from Phishers

By reporting phishing to both volunteer and industry groups, such as PhishTank, you can help to protect others from phishers.

Other anti-phishing methods have been developed, and have been included in web browsers, toolbars, and as part of web page login procedures. A few examples are as follows:
  • Since phishing is based on the phisher pretending to be someone or someone or something else, one can prevent it if one can recognize whether a site is reliable or not. There are toolbars available that display which site one is really on.
  • Firefox allows you to type in "petname extensions" and make your own labels for websites that you visit. Using this function, you will be able to recognize if you are on the right site or not, when you go back there later. If the site is false, the software will either warn you, or block the site. (You can download Firefox for free with the link at the bottom of this page.)
  • Another method used by browsers is to keep lists of clean sites and lists of known phishing sites and, to verify websites against this list. To date, Firefox has been found to be the most effective at detecting false sites (according to software testing companies).
There are other methods of countering phishing attempts, but this is the basic picture. Aside from a few computer programs that make it harder for phishers to target you, the main weapon to use to combat phishing is an awareness of the phenomena. With this, one can recognize it where it occurs, and avoid falling into the trap.

You can help, by making others aware of phishing, and of the methods used in order to gain access to personal information.

I have attempted to write this article in such a way that anyone can understand it.

Please feel free to distribute links to this article, so that others can also be aware, and less susceptible to phishing.

Tips on How to Recognize a Phisher

(if you have not read the description of what phishing is you may see it here).

Recognizing a Phisher

  • SPELLING MISTAKES in the email or Website. Sounds simple. But no reputable company will send you an email with spelling mistakes. Or at least they will try not to. It presents a very unprofessional image, and could harm its business.
  • LACK OF A PERSONAL GREETING. This is another giveaway, though the fact that you are personally greeted is not a guarantee that it is not a phishing attempt. Paypal, for example, always addresses you by your name in its emails. A common practice of phishers is to send out fake Paypal emails. These are sometimes recognized by the fact that they start with the statement “Dear Member” or “Dear Paypal User” instead of “Dear Jane Smith” (or whatever your name is).
  • OTHER MISSING DATA: Almost all legitimate companies include some form of information that is not easily available to someone else. Paypal always uses your username in its emails. Emails from banks or credit card companies almost always have partial account numbers included. A lack of these is a sure danger sign.
  • SPAM FILTERS can also help by reducing the number of phishing emails that users receive.
(if you have not read the description of what phishing is you may see it here).

What is Adware?

Adware - or Advertising-Supported Software

Adware, which is short for “Advertising-Supported Software” is any software which automatically plays, displays, or downloads advertising material to a computer after the software is installed on it.

It is usually included with other software downloaded from the Internet, especially what you download for "free". The price you pay is having the adware installed on your computer. when you run the program that you downloaded for "free" from the Internet, it will usually automatically cause adds to pop up on your screen thereafter.

Adware software is integrated into or combined with another program. The person or company who is making the free program available is usually paid for including adware in his program. This is one of the ways that some programmers make a living or cover the cost of writing "free" programs.

Sometimes Adware takes the form of spyware, keeping track of what you do on your computer, and which pages you visit on the web. This information is automatically sent over the Internet to the company which runs the adware. The data is then used in order to target you with specific advertisements, or is sometimes resold to other companies. This is can be done entirely without your knowledge. Should you, however, complain about this, you would most likely be referred to some fine print in the license agreement which you accepted when you installed the "free" program.

Some Adware can interfere with the functions of other programs running on your computer, in order to force you to visit a particular web site. If you find yourself being automatically sent to a certain website, you can be fairly certain that you have some form of adware running on your computer.

These days it can be hard to separate out "Adware" from "Spyware" and "Malware;" especially since many programs might do all of these things at the same time. For example, if you install "adware" knowingly or unknowingly on a computer, and agree to a tracking feature, the "adware" becomes "spyware" as it is now also keeping track of what you do and sending the information somewhere. If someone else visits or contacts your computer, this will also be recorded and his information is then passed on as well.

Some Adware is not classified as Spyware because, somewhere in the user agreement it says that "third-party software will be included that may collect and may report on computer use." As the company has included this statement in the "Terms of Use," it is now no longer Spyware but simply Adware, as they are not "secretly" collecting and tracking your information. But really... how many people actually fully read the Terms of Use.

Another circumstance to take into account is the case when there are more than one person using the computer. In the case of a family computer, your kids might download a simple "free game," and unaware of all the facts, automatically agree to have Adware installed. All you see is the kids playing a new game. You might even be happy as it didn't cost you dime this time. However the "free game" is most likely not all that was downloaded.

Here are a few names of well-known Adware programs. This list is by no means complete and serves only as an example:

123 Messenger
180 Solutions
Bonzi Buddy
Comet Cursor
Direct Revenue
Ebates MoneyMaker
Mirar Toolbar
Smiley Central

There are also programs that specifically detect and remove adware, some are as follows:

Ad-Aware by Lavasoft
Kaspersky Internet Security
AVG Free Anti-Virus and Internet Security
CounterSpy by Sunbelt Software
Spybot Search and Destroy by Patrick Kolla
SpySubtract by Intermute
SpySweeper by Webroot
Spyware Doctor by PCTools
AVG Anti-Spyware by Ewido
AVG Anti-Malware by Ewido

These programs are designed specifically to detect spyware, and will not detect or remove viruses. A few of the above Ant-Adware products are available for free on the Internet.

Keep in mind that anti-Adware or Anti-Spyware programs are not Antivirus programs. This is a different subject entirely. Most Anti-virus programs also detect Adware and Spyware.

You can do a more thorough search for adware or spyware by first scanning with one program and then with another (or others). In most cases I have found that different programs find different things. More example, if you would first scan with Spybot Search and Destroy and then with Ad-Aware, the Ad-Aware would possibly find spyware which spybot had not found. And vice-versa.

The same goes for antivirus programs. I sometimes have to scan with more than one antivirus program in order to find and handle any and all viruses that my system has picked up. This can be time consuming as one usually has to uninstall the first antivirus program before the second one can be installed – but it is sometimes worth it.

Some of the newer web browsers, such as Firefox, also include add-blocking functions which can prevent harmful or annoying adds - and, as such, are safer to use.

- Anna Stone