Computer Viruses in 2011

After 11 years of working with computers I am often asked how I keep up with the constantly changing world of computers. Personally, I find myself reading tech blogs and computer books on a daily basis during any free minute I have. While this does help me keep in touch with the changes, I find that the majority of my knowledge comes from my hands on experience with computers.

The evolution of computers over my last 11 years has been huge. From simple machines used to type up papers to complex networks housing decades of data. It is no secret we have become dependent on the personal computer.

Unfortunately, the evolution of the personal computer has also spawned the continuous evolution of the computer virus. Back in the day we used to see computer viruses spread through floppy disks and emails. Today, there are so many ways a computer virus can be spread. I thought I would take a moment and highlight a few of the methods I have seen in the last few years in which viruses have spread amongst computers.

1.) Peer to peer software – We have all used it at some point. Either to download music (legally of course), to connect via web chat, instant messaging or a number of other ways.

What can you do? Basically if you are connecting in real time to another computer you are exposing your computer to the world. If you are using any type of peer to peer software, make sure your antivirus is up to date. Though most importantly, know who you are dealing with on the other end. If you are meeting new people via an internet chat room…stop.

2.) Downloading music – If you are downloading music, make sure the file you are downloading is actually what you intend to download. What does this mean? If you are using a reputable service such as iTunes or Amazon.com you are fine. If you are doing things in a less than reputable method and you are not “techy” you should probably stop. Why? First it is illegal and no matter what you think…you are being tracked. Second, eventually you are going to download something that is not what you intended. Let me explain…

I am a 15 year old teenager and want the new single from My Chemical Romance.  I start to download it via my peer to peer software of choice and once it is done I double click on the “song”. This is when the problems start to arise. On the other end of the “peer to peer” software is some disturbed tech geek who has taken a virus file and “renamed” the file to the latest single from My Chemical Romance. He hosts the file on his computer and every person who downloads it from him and runs the program will be infected. Have you ever renamed a Word or Excel file? It’s just that easy to do.

3.) The internet – Various websites have advertisements for antivirus software. This is normal…antivirus companies need to spread their word somehow and some choose this method. However, some websites are “less than reputable” and showcase advertisements for bogus security software. We have all seen this done before. A pop up screen shows up and says our virus software is out of date. We click on the link to update our virus software and begin to unknowingly download the bogus software. This software is called rogue software since it basically takes over your entire computer including your existing antivirus software.

So what do you do to stay safe on the net? Practice common sense. If your antivirus software is out of date…update it. There are so many free versions of antivirus software there basically is no reason to go without. Unsure of what to use? Visit my page of recommended software. If you are visiting “less than reputable” websites, be safe and don’t click on anything you are unsure of…remember that. And most of all, if you are using a peer to peer client of some sort, make sure you know what you are downloading.

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Tags: computer,virus,software,malware,adware,antivirus,malicious,internet,safety

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