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Keep your computer safe
from viruses and spyware

 The recommendations on this page are just that--recommendations.  There is no way to absolutely guarantee that you won't get a virus or be invaded spyware.  If you follow these recommendations, you will greatly reduce the odds of getting an infection.  However, the recommendations on this page in no way represent a warranty against getting a virus or spyware in your computer.

If the section below seems familiar, much of it is a repetition of the Top 10 page. Yes, it is so important that it needs to be repeated. Click here to skip the review.

Think you may have a virus?  Go the the Tech Support Department to get a link to an online virus scan web page.

Always do the following:

Set up and use automatic updates to keep your Windows computer (sorry we don't do MAC) and Windows software up to date.  Because Windows is far and away the most popular computing platform, there are always new attempts to find and exploit security weaknesses in the Windows operating system and software.  Open Internet Explorer and click on Tools/Windows Update.  In the web site be sure to turn on Automatic Updates.  You can set them to completely automatic, and they will download and install overnight (and sometimes reboot, so be sure to save all work, which you should do anyway).  Or you can set them to download and tell you they are ready to install.  And when they tell you, please install them within a few hours or at worst a couple of days.  We consider that automatic download with install on request is the minimum setting that you should have for Automatic Updates.

Have a firewall between your computer and the internet.  If you think you can't afford a firewall, see below for a very effective FREE firewall that you can install on your computer.

Run up to date Virus and Spyware software with up to date virus and spyware definition files.  If you think you can't afford this necessary software, then see below for FREE virus and spyware software.

Don't open emails that look suspicious--unrecognized email address, strange looking subject, anything peculiar about them, don't open!

Don't open attachments unless you know approximately what they are and where they came from.  From your friend's email account isn't good enough.  Viruses will get your friends email account information from an address book on another computer and send out an email that looks like it came from your friend's email.  Even if the text indicates that your friend intentionally sent it (for instance she says something that you know the virus program could not have found out), you should be suspicious that a dangerous attachment could have been unknowingly forwarded by your friend.

Turn off your email preview pane--it allows possibly malicious code to run as soon as you click on the email.

Don't forward junk emails--emails asking to help some family find their lost daughter or wanting you to save Sesame Street are usually not legitimate.  Likewise, petitions that have the 100th person send the petition to such and such a web site, even if well intentioned do not work, as the web site will quickly be overwhelmed with emails (assuming that it is a sympathetic cause). You can check out the legitimacy of such claims at www.snopes.com which is an urban legend site that tracks such things. Emails that are passed on by users are still viruses--their replication method is just non-technical. They load up the internet and clog people's inboxes. Be careful what you pass on.

Free Anti-virus/Anti-Spyware software

Have your virus update definitions expired and you don't want to spend the money to update them? There are a number of good antivirus and antispyware programs available to non-commercial users for free. Just go to your favorite search engine and search for "free antivirus software". Do make sure that you get all three forms of protections - antivirus, antispyware and firewall.

If you want or need to purchase an antivirus antispyware program, we still recommend the Kaspersky products.  Click here to go to Kaspersky's web site.  Kaspersky's Internet Security Suite has, in addition to virus and spyware protection, a very good software firewall.  This is a good firewall solution, especially if you have only one computer, or if you have a net active teenager (see below for more on computer savvy teenagers and the web).

Free Personal Firewall Software

Zone Alarm offers a good basic firewall that is free.  Be aware that the free version of Zone Alarm does not have spyware protection, so you want to be absolutely certain that your antivirus software does support spyware detection.  Download from here.

Teenagers and the Web

We strongly recommend against letting kids at any age have a computer that is attached to the internet in their room. Computers used on the internet by kids should be located where other people are around and will be walking behind them, seeing what they are doing.  The internet is a dangerous place with adults posing as children, pornographic and violent sites, etc.  There are things that you can do to block such sites, and if you have children then we recommend that you do so.  But these blocks, even at their best are not 100 percent effective.  While we have not investigated blocking software, the site http://www.filterguide.com/ has reviews of various internet security related products including site blocking software.

Also, many teens are more than computer literate.  They are all over the Internet, into all kinds of sites.  Many of these sites pose risks to the computer if not to the user. Even the 2007 Superbowl web site was hacked and attempted to load malicious software onto computers that did not have a certain Microsoft security patch installed.  If you have a teenager in the house who knows more about computers than you and is very net active, he or she should ideally have his or her own computer, and each computer in the house should have its own personal firewall, so that if his or her computer is compromised, it will not compromise other computers in the house. Viruses and spyware will often spread through a network to other computers once they are behind a network firewall. Also disk sharing should not be turned on between his or her computer and the others in the house.


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