First let's look at what a virus is and what it is not. Let us look at Wikipedia's definition,
“A computer virus is a computer program that can replicate itself and spread from one computer to another. The term “virus” is also commonly but erroneously used to refer to other types of malware, including but not limited to adware and spyware programs that do not have the reproductive ability. A true virus can spread from one computer to another (in some form of executable code) when its host is taken to the target computer; for instance because a user sent it over a network or the Internet, or carried it on a removable medium such as a floppy disk, CD, DVD, or USB drive. “
So there you have it. Quite technical and just a hunch but you're probably thinking “why do I need to know that?” Well you don't actually. You really need software protection and perhaps some insight into the hows and whys to avoid such catastrophes.
Let's deal first with why having a virus, malware or spyware can be so devastating. Are you backing up your important data? If you're not backing up your data you run the risk of losing everything. Sure some viruses can be eradicated sparing your data, but there are some which render your hard drives data unrecoverable. So it's wise to get in the habit of backing up your data. The only required tools are an external hard drive (if you have large amounts of data) or a thumb or flash drive if you have a small amount of data to backup. Once you have your external drive in place download a program called FBackup. The program is free and is customizable to run scheduled backups.
So now let's talk about good antivirus, malware protection. If you have Norton or McAfee installed that's OK but I must say having been in this business for over twenty years I am not impressed with either. Over the years virus protection has turned to Internet Security programs which monitor all activity to your computer not just email or downloaded attachment viruses. These days we have much more robust security packages designed which to proactively stop viruses which are transferred simply by visiting a website. Some of the good ones include and this is a short list,
Eset Nod 32 ( personal favourite)
If you want to take a chance and go with one of the many free offerings we recommend,
You need to ask yourself a few questions to establish whether you need serious protection or just go with one of several free protection programs,
Are you banking online or are you concerned about your passwords being compromised? If you are then you should use a purchased version of an Internet Security suite.
If you are dabbling online and could care less if someone sees your information and your passwords compromised then you can go with a free version
Consider your budget. Having antivirus protection is like insurance. To quote from a famous TV commercial ” You can pay me now or pay me later”
Is your data important to you? Are there files on your computer(s) which are considered essential and you can live without them? If this is the case then you should consider purchasing a good internet security package
Obviously if you're using a business or corporate computer you need an excellent security suite because of the seriousness of preserving your data
What else can I do to avoid viruses in conjunction with good protection?
When you do a search online make sure you click on only results which are relevant to your search query
Stay away from sites which are unknown to you. Do not follow redirects unless you know where its leading
Never click on links in email or sign in to accounts from an email. Verify the authenticity of the email in question before clicking
NEVER EVER open a program which was sent as an attachment in an email even if you know the person. It's better to save the file to your computer but don't extract it or install until you check it with your protection
Do not allow pop-ups that ask to download windows updates unless you are certain this is a windows update. This is one of the tricks hackers use to disguise a download as a windows update and make you think you have to get it.
Ensure you have security of your browser set at least at medium security
Finally keep your security and protection up to date. Most if not all programs will update automatically so its not a major concern. And schedule automatic scans with your updated security protection. Scan manually as well to be sure you are protected.