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How to prevent malware infection on your computer

I work on other people’s computers, removing virus, spyware, Trojans and a lot of other trash. In most cases, I would also help fix some small issues with Windows or other programs on the computer. Day in and day out, I see people coming in with their computer infected with the latest malware.

Ever since I got my first computer, almost 10 years ago, only once have my computer been infected. That happened when I tried to run a program that came from a very bad website (I was trying to download a crack while half asleep.) icon wink How to prevent malware infection on your computer

Until now, I tried to keep my work away from my blog, but since this might be helpful to many people, I have decided to post some suggestions.

  • Anti-Virus: I have never had a happy relationship with these programs. They slow down my computer and sometimes are temperamental. Most of the time, I never bother with one. But, that is stupid! An anti-virus program is your first line of defence, and in most people’s cases, the last line too. Do me a favour and install one today. You can find a list of Anti-virus softwares here.
  • Firewall: There is a widespread misconception that a firewall is necessary and can prevent virus infection.
    • Firewall does not monitor what a program or file that you downloaded is doing, until it tries to access the internet.
    • Firewalls control access to your computer, much like your pet dog controls access to your home.
    • Firewall would be effective against worms, which would use network connections to spread. But a worm (and virus) is not that common these days.
    • Firewall will be effective if a malware on your computer tries to access the internet.
    • Any good security suite would contain firewall as part of the suite.
  • Updates: Ask any system administrator, they will always ask you to install updates. Most updates contain security fixes and they must be installed.
    • Any good anti-virus should and will install updates automatically.
    • Turn on automatic updates in Windows, if you haven’t already, and install them when you are prompted. If you cannot be bothered with that, allow Windows to install updates automatically.
    • Critical Windows updates must be installed. Optional updates, unless they are new programs can be installed. Hardware updates should be installed if there is a problem with one of the hardware drivers.
    • These days infections exploit vulnerabilities in Java, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Flash plugin, Apple Quicktime etc to get on your computer. A known vulnerability in the older version of Java allows execution of programs downloaded from the internet with Admin privileges. Secunia online scanner can check whether most of the critical softwares are up to date. Update checker is another software that can check whether a newer version of any software is available for download.
    • Java is a major cause of infections on computer that I have seen and another post with a more details can be expected. But for now, go to Add/Remove Programs and make sure only one version of Java is listed over there. If there is more than one, remove the older versions.
  • Alternate browser: Internet Explorer is used as default browser on more than 70% of Windows based computers and as a result it is the most targeted browser. Further certain features of Internet Explorer allow automatic execution of programs. A good idea would be to switch over to either Firefox or Google Chrome.
  • Anti-malware /Anti-spyware: As I mentioned earlier, no anti-virus software can guarantee 100% protection. Most of those softwares are tuned to find viruses based on behaviour or signature. Problem is viruses are not as actively developed as other malware as most people have started using security softwares which are good at finding bad behaviour. For eg: a real virus would attempt to attach itself to .exe files and try to replicate itself or to attach itself to other running .exe files. Most anti-virus programs will be able to find what the malware is going to do by running it in a safe environment or by analyzing its signature. The problem with finding Trojan infection is that, it does not try to attach itself with .exe files, they run as separate programs and do things that any other good program can be made to do, only the Trojans are more annoying than a regular program. So it would be a good idea to install an anti-malware software to complement your security software. I would recommend using Malware Bytes which has both free as well as paid version. Don’t worry if it finds hundred of files/registry entries that your security software missed.
  • Common sense: This is by far the most important tip I can give you. You can ignore all the above points and still remain safe if you use common sense while browsing websites and installing programs. On the other hand, you can still get infected after religiously following the above steps, if you do not use your common sense.
    • Do not click on install or run when you get a pop-up that you were not expecting.
    • Read the alerts and prompts that you receive and click appropriately. Clicking OK for all prompts will land you in trouble.
    • Check comments while downloading torrents and try to avoid file sharing programs like Limeware if you are not too computer savvy.
    • Softwares offering unbelievable speed boost are just that, unbelievable. Check reviews and comments before you try a software yourself.
    • If you go looking for porn, pirated software, keygens and serials, then you are asking for trouble.
    • If you get pop-up stating your computer is infected with hundreds of viruses, no matter how real it looks, it is fake. Don’t try to find more about the “amazing software” that can help you remove it.
    • Etc…

These are the basics, yes basics. There is a lot to say about security. I would be writing more on certain topics which I feel needs more attentions, like Java. But if you need information on any other topic, keep pestering me. As you can see, I am pretty irregular when it comes to updating my blog.

 How to prevent malware infection on your computerSmall Print: I work for one of the Security Software firm mentioned above. However I have tried my best not to endorse any brand.

About Sunil Joseph

I write ideas that strike me, sometimes just to remember them later, and just once in a while, you might find something useful. :-)

3 comments

  1. Excellent! Thank you

  2. [Updated Post] How to prevent malware infection on your computer – http://www.suniljoseph.net/2010/02/08/ho

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