Introduction to the antivirus protection - Ten commandments of an antivirus protection

How should I protect my computer from viruses? Is it enough to have an antivirus program installed? What else can I do for the safety of my data? Each of us has surely asked himself these questions. In the following text you can find ten rules. If you obey them, they will enable you to decrease the threat of malicious codes affect.

  1. Use an antivirus software!
    It is hard to imagine an antivirus protection without an antivirus software. It is the cornerstone of the whole information technology. In the modern global world it is impossible to distinguish between "safe" and "unsafe" sources of electronic data, but it is necessary to regard everything at least as "potentially unsafe". Malicious codes can get into a computer through e-mail (which is nowadays probably the most often source of infection), visited web pages, local network or even through original CDs (yes, there were many cases of infected software on the market in history). All these entry points can be protected by an antivirus program. As to the rest, it is beyond human power to scan all the incoming data for ninety thousands of known malicious codes that may, due to clever mask techniques, change into millions and millions various shapes.
  2. Be careful using e-mail!
    As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the most serious danger is nowadays represented by malicious codes that use e-mail for their spread. How to protect from such a danger, i.e. how to minimize it (because avert it completely means not to use e-mail)? It is mentioned above that an antivirus software is the cornerstone. One of the other recommendations is not to use an e-mail preview, because some codes are able to activate without clicking on the attachment. Just opening the message and viewing this preview makes it easier to them. User has no possibility to remove the suspicious e-mail without infecting the computer. Moreover, it is convenient not to send e-mails in HTML, because a dangerous code can be inserted in it on reply. Plain text can not be coloured, cannot contain sounds or animations, but on the other hand it is safe. And the last rule: be careful with any e-mail attachments! If you are not dead sure that it is a safe attachment, do not open it! It holds especially for various congratulations or funny programs.
  3. Beware of illegal programs!
    The aim of the following lines is not to fight against copying illegal software because of law, but because of security. Today the danger of infecting copied programs on some "pirate's" computer where hundreds of programs are stored is not so serious as it used to be a few years ago. Today, whole CDs (or DVDs) are copied directly and the original is compared to the copy, so even copying on an infected computer should not cause infecting. The actual threat is something else: Producers police the (il)legality of their software on computers and do not enable fundamental functions for the security (for example patching) to irregularly gained programs. An example can be the operating system Windows XP that can be used in illegal version, but its dangerous errors cannot be corrected with the use of so-called Service Packs.
  4. Think over the web pages you want to visit!
    Many web pages contain malicious codes that are able to install themselves on the computer and cause many problems there. The most illuminating example can be so-called dialers which are applications inserted into HTML pages that (usually without user's permission, but sometimes after a false excuse with user's permission) change the dial-up number that you are using to connect to the Internet with (if you use a dial-up coonection). Instead of an acceptable amount of money per hour, the Internet connection is suddenly realized by a foreign phone number and therefore is extremely expensive. Try to avoid suspicious pages where this or similar infection threats: erotics, illegally distributed games, software and music, serial numbers, cracks, warez, hackers etc.
  5. Use a personal firewall!
    The times when an antivirus software was enough for the computer protection are over. If you are connected to the Internet, the use of a personal firewall is necessary. It is a computer program checking all the data flowing from or into your computer and at the same time blocking unrequested or unwelcome operations (attacks from hackers or viruses etc.). It can be simply said that a personal firewall is a sort of a computer port guard. Many current malicious codes spread through the Internet (i.e. not through e-mails or infected files). These codes use security defects and software weak points for attacking poorly protected computers directly from the Internet. The problem is that antivirus programs usually cannot deal with such codes. It is a question of principle: A net worm uses a network to get into the computer but "lives" only in the computer memory. If it does not create any file on the disk, antivirus software ignores it. Even if the user removes it from the computer memory, the malicious code is settling in the computer immediately again. The whole process could last for ages getting and removing the worm. Personal firewalls can help us just in these situations.
  6. Use the electronic signing and encrypting!
    In the introduction of this text we said that the virus threat cannot be averted, but only minimized. As well, the possibility of a successful attack cannot be excluded. An absolute security simply does not exist - not in the real world, neither in the cyber one. That is why you have to be prepared for possible attacks and ensure that their consequences were the less serious possible. Using the electronic signing contributes to an excellent prevention because it enables warning about any changes in documentation or files (and if they are infected by virus, they are of course modified). The electronic sign used in communication can help to the authentication of the message sender (that the message was sent by a specific person, not by a virus pretending to be the person). The data encryption technology ensures that even if an attacker gets the data, she or he can see only a nonsensical group of characters instead of the usable information. Therefore, encrypting protects data not only against viruses that steal documents from computers, but also against other inquisitives and unauthorized people.
  7. Get the information!
    It is said (and true) that fighting against known enemy is much more easier than the fight against an unknown threat. Try to be "in the know" as for new computer viruses. It is good to monitor web pages of antivirus companies or "virus" paragraphs in the expert press. You will find there answers to many questions as well as advices how to solve individual situations. Filter the information properly - if an e-mail is sent to you by a colleague or friend about the most monstrous virus ever, that prompts you to forward it to as many addresses possible, it is probably a hoax (false alarm that expands on the world in order to molest as many users possible).
  8. Patch, patch, patch!
    It is not so long ago when software companies were declaring their products to be absolutely perfect and bug-free. Although errors and problems evidently occurred, they were putted the blame on "objective reasons" or anything else. The situation has changed, the majority of software producers admit that their software might contain errors. No wonder - every computer in the world is a unique combination of software, hardware and its settings, whereas programs are tested only on a small group of machines. Software producers realized that if they do not bear the responsibility for these weak points, they could pay dear one day in the form of legal proceedings or the loss of important customers' trust. It is more acceptable to admit the possibility of errors existence, correct them periodically and pass the responsibility to the user. It cannot be demanded that users reinstall the whole program or operating system after every fix so patches have originated. They are small programs that, applied on computer, change the source codes and configuration of the parent software in order to solve the known problems. These problems may be of various kinds - collision with another software, malfunction, an undesirable property that can be used by hackers or viruses and so on. All patches for the most frequent operating system are available at WINDOWSUPDATE.MICROSOFT.COM or through the Windows Update in the Start Menu. Be careful, some patches are very large (tens and tens of MB), which can be very unpleasant especially if you use the dial-up connection.
  9. Backup your data!
    Backup, backup, backup! Backup in the morning, backup at noon, backup in the evening! And dream of backuping during the night... We are exaggerating a little, but really only a little. Close your eyes and try to answer these questions: If all the data disappeared from the computer right now, how long would it take to renovate it from backups and other sources? This can simply happen due to a computer virus attack, stealing your computer or just by an ordinary vase with water overturned by accident. So once more: backup, backup, backup!
  10. When appropriate, contact experts!
    Yes, in case of a virus attack or any other problem it is simplest to call "a friend who has installed these programs". But this is a very problematical solution: the effects of the most computer viruses cannot be removed by anyone unexperienced. It requires some knowledge and tools. Statistics are very sad with regards to this - 95 percents of harm debited to computer viruses are caused by something different - by non-professional attempts to deal with them! If the virus encrypts the data on the hard disk and you remove it, you can bid farewell to that data immediately. But if you first use the virus for decrypting the data and then annihilate it, the data will remain all right.

Related references

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Introduction to the antivirus protection