How Computer Viruses Spread & What You Can Do To Prevent Them.

(Contributed by Guest blogger Kate Schneiders)

With more than 100 new computer viruses released and spread over the Internet every day, antivirus software is arguably the most important program on your computer. Computer viruses are malicious programs that are written (in my opinion) for the sole purpose of giving you a headache, stealing personal information and frustrating the living daylight out of you. Viruses, and other malware, corrupt or delete data on your computer, make your computer less reliable and often jeopardize your personal information. Some viruses can even delete your entire computer hard drive.

In today’s ever-evolving technology world, most people know what computer viruses are. However, many computer users don’t understand exactly how viruses spread – putting them at a higher risk of becoming infected because they aren’t fully protecting themselves. Below are five common ways computer viruses spread and what you can do to protect yourself and your computer from being infected.

1. Fake Antivirus Software.

This is probably the most frustrating way to get a virus. There are numerous antivirus and antispyware programs on the Internet with free downloads. But, there’s a catch. Many of these programs actually do the exact opposite of what they say. So, while you think you are downloading antivirus software, you’re probably actually downloading a virus – which will make your problems 10,000 times worse. To avoid being slammed with these viruses, make sure you only download programs from trusted sites or websites that you know are completely legitimate.

2. E-mail attachments.

Word to the wise, e-mail really isn’t a ‘virus breeding ground’ like it’s been made out to be. It is nearly impossible for viruses to spread through plain-text e-mails. Usually, viruses that spread via e-mail spread through attachments. So, here’s the golden rule of e-mail … if you don’t know what the attachment is  or where the attachment came from … don’t open it. It’s that simple. Don’t turn into a crazy person and take drastic measures like never opening e-mail attachments, just be smart about which attachments you choose to open. If you have good antivirus software on your computer, it will actually automatically scan all your attachments for viruses before your system opens it – which will help protect your computer if there is an infected file.

3.  Rogue Websites.

It’s a scary thought, but it’s important for you to understand that your computer can actually become infected with spyware or viruses simply by visiting a rogue website (typically ‘adult’ or gambling sites). These sites will usually install adware bugs that cause a landslide of advertisements and pop ups to appear on your screen. Sometimes the sites will also install other programs onto your computers – and these programs have less than noble intentions. To keep your computer safe you can do two things. First, avoid these sites like you would avoid the plague (I know … it’s a cliché, but it’s still great advice). Second, make sure you adjust the settings on your antivirus software and firewall so that your computer is protected from outside connections. If your settings block outside connections, these sites cannot install programs on your computer without your express permission.

4. Phishing Schemes.

In our world full of identity theft and cybercrime, we all need to be more aware of phishing schemes. These schemes are one of the main ways that people fall victim to identity theft (and a computer full of viruses). Hackers will pretend to be a trustworthy person or business with some sort of ‘official’ communication and will try to acquire your personal information (like credit cards or passwords) with the intent of stealing your identity. Usually these schemes will require you to click a link and fill out your banking or credit card information … then the hacker collects that information and sends a flood of viruses your way. Know that your bank is never going to e-mail or text you with problems with your account. If you do get a message about a problem, ignore it and call your bank to discuss the problem with a customer service representative. Never blindly click links in e-mails.

5.  Infected Software.

One of the many perks of the Internet is all the free games, music and programs you can download (if you’re into that illegal downloading thing). So many programs and fun things are just a mouse-click away. And, while these programs are free, they usually come with a price – a computer full of viruses. Many of these sites infect their freeware (software that is free) with a trojan virus, which means when you download the software you are also unknowingly infecting your computer. So, when you are downloading freeware or shareware, make sure you are smart and only download from a trusted source.

The best advice I can give you to help ensure your computer doesn’t become infected is to be smart while surfing the web. Nothing you do is private – hackers know what you are doing at all times. Don’t visit rogue sites, don’t download programs from untrusted sources and don’t click around the Internet blindly. Be smart online and you can help put an end to computer viruses ‘reign of terror’ and beat the online bugs for good.

Kate Schneiders is a recent college graduate and a self-proclaimed ‘word nerd.’ A journalist at heart, Kate enjoys researching and writing about the best antivirus software, credit card processors, Internet security and cybercrime.

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SK is the Founder of Techdunes. Loves blogging on Technology. Follow him on Twitter at @funmansk. Contact him at : admin(at)techdunes.com

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