It would be nice to live in a world where everybody was trustworthy and nobody would resort to underhand tactics to scam people out of their money or sensitive data. Unfortunately, the world is a nasty place full of unscrupulous people who do exactly that.
Most of us know how to avoid scams in real life, but staying safe on the Internet is a somewhat more complex matter with hundreds of thousands of shifty websites at any given time actively looking to infect our PCs with malicious viruses that can steal our personal and sensitive data.
That's why its absolutely essential in this day and age that you always run an anti-virus program on your PC to help protect you against the dangers of the World Wide Web.
There are plenty of programs that remove computer viruses, and other types of malicious software. Which antivirus should you choose, and what should you otherwise do to prevent malicious programs from infecting your computer?
In the following section will provide you with some useful tips on how to avoid viruses and how to recover from them, if the worst happens.
Which Antivirus Is The "Best"?
If you do not want to spend money on an antivirus program, you can always download one of the many free antivirus programs that are available on the net. You're probably wondering are free antivirus programs as good at stopping and removing viruses as the paid versions? The answer is yes and no. Free antivirus programs do offer a good level of protection and remove most viruses from your computer in an efficient manner, but if you want the highest level of Internet security, you should obtain a commercial anti-virus instead as these will have antivirus, firewall, spyware and other features that protect you online.
A popular and favourite amongst PC users is Microsoft Security Essentials, partly because it has a minimalist interface, and it runs very quietly in the background.
Testing Antivirus Software
There are several independents companies who run and test antivirus programs. Among the most notorious is AV Comparative and AV-TEST. In recent tests these testers found Bitdefender offered some of the most impressive protection, but also Avira and Kaspersky performed extremely well too.
Be aware however, because there are many factors to take into account with antivirus software, such as, how the program finds viruses, how it deletes/quarantines them, and whether the program is resource intensive or not. Furthermore, some antivirus programs can be more annoying than useful if they start deleting/quarantining files that are not viruses themselve.
It is "Easy" to Avoid Viruses?
Yes and no. Taking a few simple precautions will certainly ensure that you are less likely to get viruses. Making sure that Windows and other software installed on your PC is always up-to-date, do not open e-mail attachments from unknown senders, be careful on social networking sites and definitely do not download programs from torrent sites.
Keeping Your PC Up-To-Date Is Essential
The most important measure against malicious programs is to make sure you keep Windows and security software updated. Criminals use security holes to access and utilize computers.
Brian Dye, security expert with the company Symantec, goes as far as saying that antivirus programs have a very limited effect against malicious programs. In an interview with The Guardian, he says that antivirus detects only about 45 percent of malicious programs on personal computers.
Freelancer Drew Robb has also written about this topic for Dell computers, and he believes the internet has changed enough over the last few years that antivirus programs cannot keep up with developments in the online world. Criminals have been so inventive that antivirus programs simply cannot detect every single malicious threat.
Does that mean we should drop antivirus? No, says Drew Robb. Antivirus gives us some protection and is essential at fighting malicious programs.
Having an Antivirus Program Installed on Your PC Is Still Mightily Important
The conclusion is that we should still have antivirus software installed on our computers, but that one should use several measures to stop attacks, and not rely entirely on antivirus. These measures include a firewall and to ensure your operating system always has the latest security patches installed. You should also be especially cautious of websites that are trying to install software on your PC. Never download anything unless it is from a trusted source.
If your virus software for some reason is having technical problems or has ceased to function, you can always scan your computer files online to see if you have got a virus. Yes, there are actually a number of really effective online scanner that scans for viruses, spyware, trojans, worms and other malware without the need to install software on your computer. They simply scan your computer through your browser and most of them are completely free, or offer a free trial. Below we have listed several of what we believe are the best programs for scanning your computer online.
F-Secure Online Scanner. F-Secure Online Scanner is very effective at finding viruses and spyware. It is very fast and virus definitions are updated regularly.
Eset Online Scanner. ESET Online Scanner scans for both viruses and spyware and removes malicious software from your computer. However, you can only use Esets online scanner once free of charge.
BitDefender Free Online Virus Scan. With Bitdefender you can run a quick scan that checks your active programs because that is where most damaging viruses are usually found. BitDefender Online Scanner is updated as regularly as their subscription based antivirus software.
AVG Online Web Page Scanner. With AVG's scanner you can scan shady web links to see if they are infected or whether they will lead you to dangerous sites.
Panda ActiveScan. Panda Online Scanner is very good at finding all kinds of malware including viruses, spyware and trojans. The scanner is updated as often as Panda's antivirus paid version and is equally effective in scanning your computer as a regular antivirus.
Virustotal.com is a useful service that can be used to check individual files for viruses and malicious programs. You can upload a specific file, and the service checks whether it contains a virus or not.
NoVirusThanks is an alternative to Virustotal.com. This program has to be installed on your machine, and from there you can use it to check individual files with multiple antivirus programs.
Creating an Emergency Backup Disc
Here you have the opportunity to make a boot CD that can be used to restore a PC that is so badly infected with a virus that it fails to start or function properly. You download an ISO file, burn it on a CD/DVD and can then restart your PC with this.
There are quite a number of companies that offer such a service, such as:
Spyware is a program that in one way or another install itself onto your PC without you knowing. The prime objective of spyware is to steal sensitive information such as credit card details or it keeps sending you warnings that your computer is infected with a certain virus and you must buy this software to eradicate it. Here you will find software that can detect and remove spyware. It must be mentioned that most antivirus programs also remove spyware.
Spyware Terminator protects against viruses and spyware, also offers real-time protection.
Hijackthis can be used to remove potentially harmful programs. Be careful with the use of this program - you must decide whether a program is dangerous or not. You can risk removing a normal program that is not harmful. Feel free to use Google to search for information about this program, if you have any doubts.
The word "computer virus" actually means a specific type of malicious software, ie a program that tries to disrupt or destroy personal files and documents on your PC, steal sensitive information, or tries to make you part company with your credit card details by trying to sell you software that doesn't exist.
The word "malware" is a more accurate word for all types of malicious software, both viruses, spyware and other programs that otherwise may be detrimental.
There are many types of "malware", but this is just a few examples:
Computer virus is a malicious program that can spread itself from one computer to another. Viruses require a host (a computer).
Spyware can be installed without the user having no control over this. Such programs may include free programs that exist online. The impact of spyware can be anything from it display advertisements on your PC, making your PC slower, and steal sensitive information from the user.
A Trojan horse installs itself on your PC in secret, or often through other programs. Such a program may seem innocent or interesting, but can be very harmful.
Worms behaves like a virus, but are not viruses because worms requires no host. Worms transmits itself to other systems via a network, and can overload systems. Worms spread themselves as attachments via e-mail and instant messaging. Worms can also spread via security holes in Windows.
Rootkit is a malicious program that attempts to hide itself on an infected PC. The intention is that the user will not know the PC is infected.
Although the word computer virus is a specific meaning, the word is often used as a generic term for many different types of malicious programs, even if they do not behave like a computer viruses.
Antivirus program usually have the ability to detect and remove several types of malicious programs, ie programs that may be harmful, but are not classify as computer viruses.
Fake Antivirus Programs
These are programs that are being marketed as antivirus, but are actually harmful. If you get software offers via e-mail or in another way via a personal message, it is very likely a fake antivirus program that is intended to infect your PC. When you download an antivirus program, you should go directly to the manufacturer's website, or via a link from a trusted source and not via an offer you receive via a private message.
Avoid Passing on Viruses via USB Sticks and SD Cards
Do you have a PC that many users have access to, either at home, at work or in a public place? Occasional memory sticks can be a big issue.
A memory stick or SD card is one of the most common reasons why a PC becomes infected with a virus. An alternative is to use an antivirus program, but the problem is that you need to ensure that such a program is up-to-date at all times as new viruses pop up continuously.
Free program USB Disk Manager is an option. This is a portable application that can be used to control access to a memory stick - you have three options:
Write Protect - write access is blocked.
Execute Deny - no programs can run.
Disable USB - all access blocked.
Can I Have Multiple Antivirus Programs Running on the Same PC for Better Protection?
The short answer is no! If you install multiple antivirus on the same computer, these will disrupt and even knock each other out, making your computer slow and maybe even unusable! It's a bit like having too many cooks in the same kitchen! However, there are some security programs such as anti-spyware that can be run side-by-side with anti-virus software, without causing problems.
Do I Need to Install a Firewall As Well?
When you install anti-virus software, you should also install a firewall. Some rely on Windows built-in firewall, but is it any good? Savvy computer users and experts are unanimous that the Windows firewall does not measure up. It is not nearly as effective at stopping illegal traffic as many other firewalls. Most of the paid versions of security software come with both antivirus and firewall as standard, but free versions are usually only antivirus on its own. You can either download an antivirus and a separate firewall or obtain a security solution that contains both an antivirus and a firewall.
What Exactly Is a Firewall?
A firewall serves as two important functions:
1. A firewall prevents unauthorized traffic from gaining access to your computer. Once you're connected to the Internet your computer communicates via an IP number that has lots of ports where hackers can try and to gain access to your computer. A firewall ensures that only a few ports are used, making it very difficult for a hacker to get into your computer. Some firewalls also make sure that your computer becomes completely invisible to hackers.
2. A firewall also prevents unauthorized traffic from communicating with your computer. If a viruses or malicious software is trying to send unauthorized information over the web that goes directly into the hands of a hacker, a firewall will block this. Because the firewall restricts the number of ports and constantly monitors all software activity it makes it very difficult for such programs to send sensitive information.
1. Uninstall Java from your computer if you do not need it. Java is often used for Internet banking, but can easily be install again if required.
2. If you absolutely must have Java have two browsers installed (for example, Firefox and Google Chrome), where you use only one with the 'Java Plugin' for Internet banking, et cetera, and the other browser (with Java Plugin removed), for regular Internet surfing.
3. Do not use Windows XP. Microsoft Windows XP is a very old operating system and since April 2014 is longer updated with fixes or security updates.
4. Make sure that automatic updates for Windows is turned on.
5. Make sure your other software is also updated (eg. Office, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash Player, etc.)
6. Make sure your browser (eg. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.) is also updated. Today updates are performed automatically (unless you have a real old version), but it may be worth double checking through the program menu that you have the latest version. If you do not know what the latest version is check the manufacturers website.
7. Make sure that your browser extensions are updated, especially Java, Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash Player.
8. Use Google Chrome as your primary browser, as it has better security, and is generally faster to update itself against new security threats. Firefox is also an excellent choice but Internet Explorer can be vulnerable to attacks from malicious sites and programs.
9. Install Adblock Plus add-on for your Internet browser. This program blocks most advertising, and makes browsing faster and safer. It is available for virtually every single browser and is completely free of charge.
10. Avoid 'suspicious' websites when browsing from your computer! Above all sites that offer porn, games and movie downloads should be viewed with caution.
11. Never click Yes/OK on something you are not 100% sure about.
12. Never click on any boxes that tells you that you have a number of errors that must be corrected, or your PC can be speeded up, and so on. These are generally scams.
13. If a website asks you to install something in order to watch a video, chances are that it is a virus/spyware just waiting to infect your PC.
14. Do not click on unknown/strange links in your email folder, even if they come from somebody you know.
15. Do not open email attachments from people you do not know.
16. Do not use unknown USB sticks in your computer. Many viruses use USB sticks to infect new computers. If you have to use someone else's USB stick, update your antivirus software first, insert the USB stick and scan it with your antivirus.
17. Be cautious when you connect to an unprotected wireless networks, such as wireless networks that do not require a password. These are absolutely fine for general Internet browsing, but don't login to your bank account or accounts you use for online shopping as your login details can be recorded by a hacker.
18. Never log into services such as your email or Facebook account from unknown computers, or Internet cafes, etc. If you absolutely must, change your password when you get home.
19. Antivirus - make sure you have one installed, and that its active and updates itself automatically. Almost all new computers come with a limited trial version of antivirus software that stops updating itself after a short time. Keep an eye on it!
20. Download directly from the source! It's so easy to be fooled to download 'something different' than you had originally intended. Therefore you should only download files from established download sites, or preferably directly from the software manufacturer. Find out which company is behind what you want to download, see their website through Google, and find the program you want directly from the company's website.
21. Uninstall any programs you do not need! Each program makes your computer more vulnerable, and provide new potential avenues to infect you with. In addition, your computer can become more stable and more responsive with less programs installed.
Note: This webpage will be updated on a regular basis. We will add new antivirus software and remove those that no longer function. If you notice any dead links or have information about a new antivirus software that would be useful to add to the list, please contact us through our contact page.
After low user engagement and the discovery of a software error, that potentially exposed the data of hundreds of thousands of its users, Google has decided to pull the plug on its social media platform.