An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This rings especially true when it comes to avoiding the accidental acquisition of malicious software (commonly known as malware). Unwanted software that attaches itself to your PC or operating system can assume many forms –some more damaging than others—it includes: viruses, spyware and “Trojan horses”, and can also include those pesky little “cookies” that Web site operators plant to secretly track where you visit. Some are just annoying, and others may create serious problems-- corrupting files and interfering with your computer’s normal functions; “reporting” personal and confidential information to unauthorized sources; or exposing your data to external intruders and thieves.
Many of the preventive measure are simple, but easy to postpone while we attend to today’s pressing issues. As cyber thieves continue to get smarter, none of us can afford to be complacent, or just plain lazy, when it comes to protecting our computers.
Some of the most popular programs include the subscription services, Norton Internet Security 2009 from Symantec, and McAfee Internet Security. Both include anti-virus protection as well as spyware protection, anti-phishing and anti-spam utilities, and a software firewall. Subscriptions for either program are $69.99 for up to three PCs. AVG Anti-Virus offers a free program for non-commercial use (subscription services with more features and support are available). Other useful free programs are offered to personal users by Ad-Aware (the company charges for the version that comes with automated scheduling), and ZoneAlarm, which offers a free firewall to personal users.
There are no shortcuts to running the anti-malware tools. Each anti-malware installation should be run on its own, with all other programs closed down. Start with each PC shut down and disconnected from the network or modem cable. Reboot before each scan and close after each is finished. Windows has various tools to clean up disks and defrag the hard drive. Use them regularly and empty the recycle bin after every scan, too.