How to prevent computer viruses [malware] from infecting your computer

Your computer can be infected with a computer virus in many ways. The most common is from the internet, by downloading programs, music, opening email attachments, or downloading any “free” software (including crack) on the net. Others get it [a worm] from their local network if one of its peers got infected. And another very common is from our removable storage device which includes our USB Flash Drive, Memory Card, Cellphones, Digital Camera, External HDD (and more – everything that can store data) – as soon as we plug it in a computer that is infected, these devices will become a carrier of a computer virus – because a virus can copy itself to any storage devices for it to propagate. But no worries, computer viruses can only infect computers with a specific OS (Operating System) so, your devices will not be affected. It’s a program so it has also system requirements like it can only be executed on windows operating system or linux os.. 😀

So a computer virus behaves like a biological virus. First, it needs a host, second, it needs a medium so that it can infect others, third it is destructive in many ways, and fourth it needs to be triggered before it releases its payload.

Here is a very common scenario of how a virus spreads. 

First, a person goes to a public computer to read its email. Unknowingly, that computer was infected with a malware. As soon as the person opens its email, a residing malware in a computer may collect its personal data, its username and password, and everything on its address book. Without the users knowledge, this malware attached a copy of itself to an email and sends it to everyone in its address book, with his/her name on it, and with its email address on it. Now what’s really devastating is all those who receives the email will most of the time open it immediately because it comes from a legitimate sender. [some email provider provides a virus scanner for email attachment, but its not 100% reliable, sometimes it fails] As soon as they open the attachment, a malware has now a new victim. And the process repeats from the beginning. So imagine how it would spread, it’s like endless.

Here are some facts we should remember about a computer virus:

  • Viruses are computer programs – a series of instructions for our computer, like all other computer programs, it still needs intervention from the user in order for it to infect your PC. Meaning, you need to execute [run, open or whatever you call it] the virus in order for your PC to execute its commands.

Maybe you’ll ask who the hell wants to execute a virus. Well, maybe someone who really hates you and wants to destroy your files or your computer… 😀 <_ _> just kidding ..  I think no one does, even its developer don’t like to execute it in its own PC. But, virus programmers, does something to fool some user to execute a virus. And they were very good in doing that! Most of the time, viruses pretend to be something else, the most common is pretending to be a photo, an audio file[like mp3], a video file, a document, a text file or even a folder. This is done by changing its icon, and copying some of your files or folders name, pretending to be a legitimate file or folder. Some is packed inside games installer, free applications, and most of the time, those “pirated applications” with free serials or keygens or cracked applications. So, having cracked software – to have it free, carries also a heavy risk [but of course not all the time]!

  • A virus needs to attached itself to a host (another program or process)  – unlike a computer worm which spreads itself on the network by finding security holes.
  • A virus usually comes with a payload [a prank, an annoying message, or deadly instruction :D], and most of the time, it is always devastating. Like deleting files, destroying your operating system and more!
  • A computer virus is a common term to describe other malware like computer worms, Trojan horse, spyware, adware etc., but of course they are different technically. I’ll give a short description about these malwares:
    • Viruses needs user intervention to spread it self (it can copy it self) and usually has devastating instructions.
    • Worms intelligently looks for security holes(vulnerability) in your system and spreads itself on the network, it doesn’t need human help to spread – would definitely slowdown your computer, might also have a payload(destructive instructions)
    • Trojan Horse are those who poses as a useful application, game, utility software, etc. but has another motive, a destructive one
    • Spyware, from its name, it secretly enters your system, and get important information from your PC and send it to whoever made it
    • Adware, produces unsolicited-annoying advertisements that pop-ups while you are using your computer

So to avoid confusions I’ll use malware to include all malicious softwares.

Some tips to minimize the risk of infection:

  • Make sure you have an updated antivirus program installed on your computer. And its virus database is always updated (at least once a week, or if possible, everyday). OS security patches are also important to prevent worms from spreading.
  • But antivirus program is not 100% accurate. Sometimes it can’t detect certain malware[well, malware programmers do its best to make sure it can’t be detected by antivirus softwares]. And this is the scary part. So aside from relying alone on your antivirus program, you need also to make some steps to prevent infection. Here are some things that I always do to prevent infection:
    • Disable autorun feature of windows. Read from Microsoft on how to do it. this is very useful to prevent some malwares to auto execute as soon as you plug a removable storage device.
    • Never double click the drive icon in My Computer to open your removable drive. For me, it is much safer to go to Address bar and type in the drive letter of your removable device followed by a colon and a backslash to prevent automatic execution of any executables in your external drive. Ex. Go to explorer address bar (usually on top below the title bar or menu bar) and type in G:\ and press enter.
    • Always make sure to show file extension of all types. If you don’t know how to do it, just go to Control Panel > Folder Option > Go to View tab > uncheck hide extensions for known file types. This is to make sure not to be deceived by some malwares hiding its true extension (true color :D) like “New Folder.exe”, if extensions are hidden it would only show “New Folder” and its looks are just the same with your ordinary folder, and what’s worst is that it also copies the name of your original folder. Isn’t it wise? ^_^ … wew.. Ok, another example is “my picture.jpg.exe” it would only show “my picture.jpg” if extensions are hidden. Thus raising the chances of accidental execution of a malware. [just be carefull not to change file extensions while you are renaming your files]
    • Do not execute executable file or scripts that you are not familiar with. [common extensions are: .exe, .com, .vbs]
    • Do not download/open email attachments even though it comes from your friend unless your friend verified it.
    • Do not open links emailed to you by your friend without verification.
    • Perform multiple scanning, using different antivirus software if you have downloaded software application, or any files from p2p network, or other sources. [downloading is really risky, but if your willing to take the risk, go for it!]

The thing is, we can never have a “perfect way” in preventing malwares from infecting us. But we can raise our protection by READING CAREFULLY; before we click OK; before we click install; before we click Accept; before we double click; and before we right-click and click Open!  <_peace_>

Please Note: I’m not really good in grammars, writings and whatever, I just make sure its human readable! .. 😛