Ask Leo: How do I keep myself safe from Viruses?

July 29, 2010 by in leo notenboom

askleo

By Leo Notenboom

Computer viruses are a fact of modern, internet-connected life. At best,
they’re annoying performance sucking beasts, but at worst … kiss all your
data, and perhaps your bank account or identity, goodbye.

We all need to take steps to make sure that our computers
are safe, or we risk infection. Complacency is simply not an option.

And yet, even after all the news, all the horror stories, all the warnings,
and even after all this time …complacency remains all too common.

There are four important steps you should take:

1. Install and Run an Anti-Virus Program

There are many out there.

Personally, I run Malwarebytes
Anti Malware
on my primary machine. It was one of the first to recognize
and clean up after some recently pervasive virus infections, and has garnered
quite a good reputation.

“Download and install the package of your choice. Now.
Before you forget.”

I also run and have run other anti-virus solutions with good results on some
of my other machines. Specifically, I’ve run the free versions of "http://go.ask-leo.com/avgfree">AVG and "http://go.ask-leo.com/freeavira">Avira. I also hear good things about the
free version of Avast.

While I’m not a big fan of their product offerings, Symantec maintains one
of the best reference sites for
virus related security issues.

Not all virus scanners catch all viruses. I recommend having a selection of
additional virus scanners to run as a “second tier”. Most downloadable virus
scanning solutions often include free trial periods that can also come in handy
as one-time second-level scans.

Download and install the package of your choice. Now. Before you forget.

2. Update the Anti-Virus Database

After installing your anti-virus software, your first step should be to
update the virus signature database that came with it. New viruses are being
created every day, and the databases used by anti-virus programs are being
updated frequently as well. You need to update to the latest database for your
program right away.

Most of the programs have update functions that will locate, download and
install the latest databases regularly and automatically. Make sure that this
is enabled.

Article continued here: Steps 3-4.

FaceBook URL: Leo’s Facebook

Twitter URL: http://twitter.com/askleo

Leo Notenboom

About Leo Notenboom

Leo A. Notenboom is the owner of Puget Sound Software, LLC and the Leo in Ask Leo!. Leo has been in the personal computer and software industry since 1979, as a software engineer, a manager of software engineers, and as a consultant. In 1983 Leo joined what was then a medium sized local company called Microsoft and spent the next 18 years in a wide variety of groups working on a wide variety of software. If you're running Microsoft Windows, if you've used a Microsoft development tool or Microsoft Money, or if you've ever purchased a ticket through Expedia, there's a good chance you've been touched by some of his work. And of course, since 2003, Leo has been answering your tech questions on Ask Leo!

6 Responses to Ask Leo: How do I keep myself safe from Viruses?

  1. SeptemberB says:

    I totally agree with Leo on the Malwarebytes…great program and very helpful that it is free. Plus I have to agree with the comment from JCF, what about Microsoft Security Essentials? Leo LaPorte talks about it all the time and when we heard about it being FULL VERSION and FREE, who can beat that? Plus it is from Microsoft and they are trying to help beat the viruses out there. It is a sad state to have to fight this all the time, but to take no measures with backup software is even more dangerous.


  2. Gene says:

    if u would read what he says, then maybe you wouldn’t be asking or making such a redundant opinion. thanks!

    He (Leo) clearly states that while having a GOOD anti-virus prog,it’s always best to have something to accomodate with it, not all virus prog’s have the ability or the programming to remove spy-ware,mal-ware, grey-ware and the such. I agree with (leo), as im very tech savvy also.


  3. Howie says:

    I run BitDefender plus PC Matic. BitDefender is up for renewal. Should I renew?


  4. Dave says:

    @ML – I read the first part also and immediately needed to point this out, good catch!

    @Leo – Dude, how can your readers trust your advice when you tell them to install an AV product, and then recommend MBAM which ATM is NOT an AV solution, but rather a very good clean-up tool for already infected machines. I’ve know MBAM developer for years and while a full AV solution may be in his future the way things are going these days (Great work Ducky!!), it’s not an AntiVirus nor pretends to be. Maybe you should update this.

    Next…you “Hear” that so-n-so product is good…what? That’s like saying “I hear Crack is good”, if you only talk to crack-heads. Everyone (users and developers) will say their product is good, but one glaring thing about AV products is…if your AV product doesn’t detect something, it can’t alert you to it, which lures the user into a false sense of security and they spout statements like “my AV is the BEST! I never get alerts that I’m infected”. I think the best way to go about things like this is to point users to verified independent lab results and let them see for themselves how products stack up.
    It may pay off to subscribe to Virus Bulletin as well so you can ensure your readers that certain products meet a well established standard tested by the industry leader in such matters.
    Just a thought from a retired security expert.
    Also, no word on firewalls? A good firewall may alert users to an infection they do not know about and is part of the all around security solution.

    Good work on the tiered solution though! While running multiple firewalls is bad to the max, users who may be less secure minded would do very well to run a good installed AV product alongside a few free online scans from other products as well. This way the have a good chance to pick up something others may have missed. Also some AV products are not generally designed to detect any/all adware and spyware, so a good anti adware/spyware product is also required for most users. Much of the AV industry is working to change that glaring detection omission these days.


  5. JCF says:

    it seems no one care about Microsoft Security Essentials, i’ve using it for months since release working perfectly.


  6. ML says:

    Malwarebytes Anti Malware is NOT an antivirus program. It is at best an effective supplement to a good antivirus software program or full security suite.


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