Virus!! What Virus?
There are actually very few true virus infections any more. When someone's computer has been infected by unwanted and undesirable software it is typically either a Trojan, worm or other malware. The word "virus" has become a catchall term. True Virus infections were once the only damaging infection but that's no longer the case. See the links on our malware page and our Virus/Trojan page for more information.
Whatever "anti virus" software you may be using, make certain to manually check for updates weekly, even if you believe it is updating itself. One day it will surprise you and get additional components. This will also alert you if a worm or trojan infection disabled your anti virus software. Several Internet worms are expert at disabling as many as a dozen of the more popular anti virus programs and you may never know it.
The worst type of infection is the one you aren't aware you have. Worms, Trojans, keyloggers, rootkits, malware and the like frequently circle the globe in under an hour from their original release into the wild. This is what's referred to as a zero-day attack-infection since the companies that develop the anti virus software aren't even aware the problem exists before it has a chance to do damage.
How might you tell if you have one of these infections? It's a long list of possibilities and not all of these mean you are infected but here are some things to consider.
Once malware has infiltrated your system it can and frequently does invite even more of the same. The situation can quickly get out of control. If you feel you have malware in your system especially because of popups. Get expert help before it gets worse. If you wait, you could have a disabled system in short order and it will take much longer to correct the problem..
We suggest a good firewall as an additional level of protection. Windows XP's firewall is little protection from some types of malware because it won't alert you to a problem after the "junk" is in your system. I strongly suggest a little known firewall program called Outpost that is very popular in Europe and won't put undo strain on your system like some firewall software will, (think Norton Internet Security for example, which we do not recommend).
So what is the quickest and easiest way to prevent the majority of these problems in the first place? Unless there is a very compelling reason, do not use Internet Explorer on the WEB or Outlook for mail. There is a really good program available called XP Lite that can actually remove Internet Explorer and Outlook, among other Windows components, from your system, (I'm not actually recommending it but there are people who have been very successful doing just that). On an Internet newsgroup someone mentioned that he had used XP Lite to delete all traces of Internet Explorer and all versions of Outlook from his system saving multiple megabytes of disk space in the process. (It also had the effect of improving his performance, dramatically). Someone else in the newsgroup asked why he would do such a thing since it disabled the ability to get security patches from Microsoft. With "tongue in cheek" his response was that without Outlook and Internet Explorer on his system what did he need the security patches for? (In actuality Internet Explorer is not required in order to get Microsoft's latest and greatest security patches). This is a reference article on avoiding virus infections that's quite comprehensive.
Though I have, (on several systems in my office), several versions of Internet Explorer and several versions of Outlook, (that I use for special purposes and to maintain proficiency) I don't use either for day-to-day operations. Despite spending an inordinate amount of time on the Internet and sending and receiving many E-Mail messages every day I have never had any malware on any of my systems. I attribute that to using alternative browsers and mail clients. It really IS that simple 98% of the time.
The 50% or so of our customer base that use Internet Explorer accounts for 99% of our malware infection service requests. That's enough proof for us!
As an experiment I have operated without a firewall, a popup blocker or any of the dozens of other programs some people you to "protect" themselves, for over a year. No problems whatsoever and my systems run like a top!
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