The Most Common Way Viruses Access Your Computer

At PC Ninja we often hear the question, “But I have antivirus.  How did I get viruses?”  It is wise to have antivirus software, but there is no guarantee your computer will be 100% safe.  Customers then wonder, “I didn’t do anything.  Someone must have hacked in.  How do they do that?”  Well, the truth is, hackers and viruses don’t do anything initially:  you, the user, open the door for them.

“That’s ridiculous!  I have antivirus and a firewall, and I never clicked on anything!” they might counter.  Are you sure?  Are you certain you didn’t accidentally click on a pop-up when meaning to close it?  Have you never downloaded anything from the Internet?  Chances are, at some point, unbeknownst to you, a stray click or questionable download opened the door to malware or hackers that overrode your firewall or slipped past your antivirus to wreak havoc on your computer.  If you have a thick brick wall or expensive alarm system for your property but you leave the gate open, prowlers can enter.  The same is true of computers.

When you download something from the Internet or a disc, essentially you are giving the operating system permission to install the file, identifying it as safe data.  Your computer is only a machine and can’t make decisions on its own; human action initially directs all processes.  Hackers use your accidental and deliberate actions to their advantage and try to trick you by changing names or attaching malware to other files.  You will more often find deceptive or malicious material in free music and video players or adult-content sites, but hackers don’t limit their activities to dubious sites.  They can be pretty clever and try to anticipate user action.  For instance, hackers target computers just as antivirus programs expire, waiting until you are unprotected to take control.

What precautions can you take to minimize the chance of viruses and hackers?

1) Install antivirus protection.  AVG is a good program, and it’s free.  Make sure the program is running routine scans and eliminates any detected threats.  Only install ONE program, as multiple software cancel each other out.

2) If you subscribe to an antivirus software, make sure you take action to renew or change to an alternate provider BEFORE your subscription runs out so that you aren’t left unprotected.

3) If your antivirus or Internet browser has a safe search bar, you might want to use it.  This option filters search engine results to exclude websites that might contain malware or scammers.

4)  Adjust your browser security settings, and when you receive warnings about untrusted or unsecure sites, consider whether you actually trust them or not before overriding that warning.

5) If you receive suspicious e-mails that contain only a blue link in the text or a few words and an attachment, DO NOT CLICK the link or open and download the attachment.  Your e-mail provider may have its own virus scan to show you whether or not an attachment is safe.

6) Be careful when closing pop-up or flashing ads on your screen.  Never open these, and certainly never enter personal information in unknown or unsecure sites.

(As discussed on a WEEU radio broadcast 6/20/13.)

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