Antivirus Protection

Antivirus software are programs which can detect, prevent and clean up computer viruses. These viruses may attempt to infect your computer system. The antivirus software will scan downloaded files as well as your entire computer operating system. This is to detect the presence of an infection. But before getting into any more information about antivirus programs, let's first learn some basic information about computer viruses in general.

Computer Viruses: The Basics

A computer virus is much like the human version of a virus in that its purpose is to spread from system to system, replicating itself, all the while causing damage to each infected host. A computer virus can range in size and purpose, but typically, they are small bits of code.

The term "virus" is rather broad and can refer to many things. For example, worms, spyware, trojan horses, keyloggers, malware, adware and rogue software are types of computer viruses. While all are viruses, these things are actually different and fall into categories of their own, like adware and spyware. There are even different types of malware.  Furthermore, an infection can be extremely varied with problems and damage.

Therefore, the infection may be as simple as a prank that will cause strange noises, pop-ups and other annoying instances to occur on your system. However, they may delete files and slow down your system or they could even damage your hardware and possibly destroy your entire computer system.

Once on your system, an infection will spread by attaching to other programs and files within your system. Viruses will often not just replicate within your system but also attempt to spread to other systems outside of the locally infected one by methods such as taking control of your email and sending out copies of itself to those in your contacts list.

How Systems Get Infected

There are several ways that your system may become infected. The most common way a virus is spread is through infected attachments to email. These attachments may come in the form of pictures, videos, sound clips or just about any other type of file attached to an email. Infections also spread through Internet downloads. These could be completely legitimate files or links altered unknowingly to include a virus. They can also come from illegal software downloaded via peer-to-peer programs or other services.

Signs That Indicate Infection

Some signs that may indicate your system has been infected:

  • The occurrence of random pop-ups, noises or music
  • Random files and icons appearing on your desktop when you did not install them
  • Files and icons which were on your system before have disappeared without you having uninstalled or moved them
  • A high number of unusual error messages occurring
  • On-screen text, graphics, or pop-ups become distorted or unreadable
  • Hard disks, CD/DVD-drives or other hardware components can no longer be accessed
  • Applications are no longer accessible with passwords when you have not changed the password
  • Programs which worked properly before run slowly or do not run at all
  • Your system becomes extremely slow or constantly freezes
  • Your system crashes and reboots every few minutes or simply no longer boots at all

These are only a few signs to indicate system infection.  Every infection will cause different sets of problems.

Virus Protection

Virus protection can be difficult, especially when there's so many different ways to get a virus. Phishing attacks lead to unsuspecting victims downloading malware or viruses; identity theft not only steals your personal information but can also put malware on your computer if done digitally. Malware protection against malicious software is key to keeping your system safe.

The best way to stop a computer infection is to prevent it before it even begins. Virus removal is hard, so this is a much less tedious task than attempting to clean up your system after it has already been infected.

There are a number of steps that you can take to ensure the security and prevent an infection of your system. First of all, never download email attachments from email accounts that you do not know. Never download email attachments from known email accounts that seem out of the ordinary or suspicious.

Download files from trusted and reputable websites only, and when at all possible, use checksum to ensure a file's integrity. A checksum is a form of encryption that can help show if a file has been altered from its original state. Most reputable companies will post a checksum to ensure a downloaded file has not been changed.

Virus Protection And Firewall

Make sure that you have a good firewall in place on your network. Make sure that your system always has the most recent updates installed. You can do this in Windows 7 or Vista by using the Windows Update feature. Next, you will want to click "Check for Updates" to look for the latest updates and install them if there are any. On Windows XP, you will want to run the sysdm.cpl command.

Next, select the "Automatic Updates" tab. Click the "OK" button once you have completed that step. Most importantly, make sure that you have a trusted antivirus program installed on your system and that it is up to date and that it is active. There are a number of good antivirus programs to choose from including Norton Antivirus, AVG Antivirus and McAfee Antivirus. Which one you use may simply come down to personal preference.

How to Choose Strong Antivirus Software

When choosing an antivirus software, it's important to consider the services that it provides. You can help protect your device through other methods - such as a virtual privacy network - but ultimately, antivirus software is your best bet.

You want your antivirus software to be able to protect not just against viruses but also against other malware as well. Spyware and adware should be on the radar; so should common scams that come through in emails, messages, or websites. Some antivirus software protects against phishing too, so if that's a concern, seek out software that will work in that area.

Make sure it's preventative

Some antivirus software programs only fix problems after they've happened; they aren't preventative. Ideally, your program should have a protection plan included so that you don't have to be as concerned about downloading a virus, worm, or other malware.

Look for features like reactive file scanning, which checks new files and ensure their safety before you open them, and full system scans, which will check your entire device to make sure that there are no malicious files in hiding. If you don't get software that both protects and prevents, you'll find yourself having to deal with a lot more viruses in general.

Make sure it's efficient

Consider also the efficiency of the antivirus software you choose. Since the software runs constantly in the background of your computer, you want it to perform well and not slow down the system. The antivirus software you choose should be able to perform scans during all of your typical computer tasks - like copying files, archiving data, installing and launching applications, downloading files, and browsing websites. Not all programs will run efficiently with each of these tasks, so make sure that the program you select works well with your most commonly-performed tasks.

While you can download free software, we have found that the paid versions of antivirus suites are usually more robust and could possibly provide better PC protection. These antivirus products help you stay safe and protect your online activity.

Free Antivirus Software

If you don't quite have the funds to pay for a top-of-the-line antivirus program, that's okay. While we still recommend that you try and invest in a strong program, these programs do a good job at handling security threats and viruses on your computer.

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