Many computers are vulnerable to various types of harmful software such as viruses, Trojans, and worms — collectively called malware. Having virus protection on a system is important to help protect data. As with most things, the best virus protection is prevention; an anti-malware program that will stop malware before it can get on your system. Possibly the most well known type of virus protection is an anti-virus software. However, it is also important to have an anti-spyware and a firewall installed and active on the system.
When looking for virus protection, consider first an anti-virus program. The important options for an anti-virus program are real time or on-access scanning, the ability to schedule a scan on a regular basis, and automatic e-mail scanning. It is also important to find an anti-virus that is easy to use and install, that is effective in both detecting and cleaning viruses, that will give you easy to understand notices of found viruses and what the program has done with it, and has good customer support. It is also necessary for the updating process to be easy so that the user can keep the software regularly updated. The scanning process should also be fast so the user does not get tempted to pause or stop the scan.
Firewalls are also important in keeping malicious objects off a computer. A firewall is a program that examines all messages going to and from the system and blocks those that do not meet certain criteria. This can stop malware from getting on to the system. A firewall does not, however, detect malware that has made its way onto the computer so regular anti-virus scanning is a must. Most computers will come with a firewall installed, but it is up to the user to make sure it is up and running.
Some users may find themselves being bombarded by pop-ups that are designed to sell them something. These pop-ups are types of spyware. Spyware can also steal personal information and change the computer’s configuration without the user’s knowledge. The solution to this is an anti-spyware program. A good anti-spyware will not only detect and remove spyware from the system but will also keep spyware off the system in the first place.
Those looking to protect their computers from viruses may find themselves tricked into buying fake virus protection. Such programs, called rogue anti-viruses, can be programmed to look just like legitimate anti-virus software. They often pop up when a user is on the internet and claim that the system is infected when, in fact, it may not be. If the user downloads the rogue software, it can cause problems on the system, including tricking the user into buying fake software, stealing information, corrupting files, disabling real computer and anti-virus updates, and stopping the user from visiting a real anti-virus website. Proper virus protection, coupled with knowledge of how these rogue anti-viruses work, will prevent users from succumbing to these attacks.
Of course, knowledge is the best form of virus protection. If an unknown — meaning that the user did not install it — virus protection window pops up claiming that the computer is at risk go to a trusted anti-virus scanner to check it out. It is wise to have an updated, running virus scanner on the system, but there are also good online virus scanners available. Viruses can also be stopped if the user does not click on any unexpected links—even if it looks like it is being sent by a person the user knows--before asking the sender if he or she sent it. Lastly, always try to download software straight from the publisher to ensure that the software is legitimate and not a virus.