You don’t have to get viruses.

I just read an article about a local business that is a small computer repair shop.  I won’t link to it, as it’s not my intention to pick on anyone.  The author tells how the woman fixed her computer and reported finding “hundreds of viruses” and told her that “this was perfectly normal”.  The author concluded that she should expect this to happen and have to have her computer cleaned periodically “sort of like going to see your dentist for a cleaning”.

Even on highly infected machines, usually ones that teens and tweens have access to, finding hundreds of viruses is excessive.  More importantly, getting viruses doesn’t have to be normal at all.  It’s true that there is no 100% guarantee to preventing viruses, but there are steps you can take to make it extremely unlikely to get infected.  Running anti-virus software is at the bottom of the list.  My family’s main computer has never had a virus and the people who use it mostly (my wife, kids and guests), are not security savvy.  The only AV software I have on it is Microsoft’s Security Essentials which is usually rated poorly in comparisons.  I use it, or none on some of my machines, because it doesn’t noticeably impact my machine’s performance, and it’s all you need when mixed with security best practices.

I’m not going to go into every aspect of keeping secure in this post but just give a general idea to show that it is not necessary to accept viruses as part of life.  Some of the things you can address are: 1.  What type of user accounts are being used?  What permissions do users have?  Do they need them?  2.  Do I have a software firewall running on my machine?  3.  How is your web browser configured?  Do you have scripting enabled?  What about plugins like Java in the browser?  4.  Is your operating system up to date and patched?  What about your software products like Adobe Flash?  5.  Should you be using an extra layer of protection like Sandboxie or a Virtual Machine?  6.  Are you behind a NAT (network address translation) router?  Does that router have Universal Plug and Play enabled?  Did you change the default passwords on your router?  7.  Do you have good passwords for your computer and online accounts?

I could go on but the point is that we have powerful technology interwoven into our lives now.  We rely on them for our communications, businesses, storing our most important documents and pictures, and our finances.  Accepting intrusion by the bad guys should not be an option.  With viruses like the Zeus banking trojan and the Cryptolocker ransom-ware, the stakes are too high.  There is help for your digital security.

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