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Please read also the page about Nasty Things. Notes about hoaxes, letters that invite you to “Click Here”, and things that “Install on Demand”.
A computer virus is a tiny program intended to do something you won't like, up to and including making your computer utterly unusable. They're called viruses because they spread—they infect any unprotected computer with which they come into contact.
You can pick up a virus from a floppy disk or CD, from a downloaded program, sometimes from a website and especially through email.
Most email viruses include an instruction to locate an address book and send copies of themselves to everyone in it. Therefore, if you're running the risk of infection by having no anti-virus software, you're also putting at risk every person whose email address is in your computer.
As soon as you've installed an anti-virus program, find out how to install regular updates. This is vital. Yesterday's program won't stop today's new virus.
Whenever a computer virus makes the news, it's one that's appeared in the last day or two and has spread through millions of unprepared computers.
OK. Theoretically you could get the virus before your AV company knows about it, but it's not likely. There are lots more fish than you out there to be caught!
If you have your first computer, it may be that the retailer told you, truthfully, that it has anti-virus software installed. You've found the installation CD amongst the odds and ends that came with your computer. That's a good start, but for that program to be effective, you must have the latest definitions.
There'll be an icon for your anti-virus program at the right-hand end of the task bar—bottom right-hand corner of your screen. Double click the icon and you'll be into the settings. Fossick around, looking through all menus until you're sure it's set for regular automatic updates.
Occasionally, when a new virus has hit the Internet, new definitions may be available twice in one day.
If someone sends you a document attached to an email, please don't open it in your email client (Outlook Express, for instance). Have a folder to which you save all attachments. It can be a folder within My Documents or a folder on your desktop. Save your attachment to that folder, then right click on it and have it checked by your anti-virus program. It takes a few seconds. It costs nothing. It can save you from having your data corrupted or destroyed and having expensive work done on your machine. Do it, every time.
When you click on an attachment, you should get a menu or a dialogue box asking if you want to open the file or save it to disk. If you choose Open, you should get a warning message. Even if you don't get the warning message, don't open attachments directly. Save, VIRUS CHECK, then open. It doesn't matter how much you trust the sender. It isn't insulting to check the documents they send; it's just common sense. All sorts of crippling viruses are alive and thriving!
Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you. My email address is here.