“I keep getting strange error messages.” “My computer is so slow.” “Suddenly my home page is totally different.”
When you hear these complaints, the probable culprits are viruses, spyware and adware.
Much of the computer service we provide is due to these three cyber bandits. With some diligence on your part, you can avoid these hassles for little or no cost.
Viruses are created by hackers to interfere with your computer’s processes. To gain access, viruses masquerade as legitimate notifications, Windows operations, or other familiar or benign looking pop-ups. E-mail forwards or “chain letters” are an easy way for a hacker to spread a virus. These viruses use you and your address book for their own malicious purposes. At the receiving end, you should beware even if you have antivirus software in place. It is always wise NOT to open attachments from unknown sources.
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Many people already have anti-virus software installed, but it does not always defend against other types of malware, such as spyware and adware. Spyware is an invading executable file that sends information from your computer back to its source. Unlike a virus, spyware will try to remain undetected. Special toolbars may look like fun, but they can be a form of spyware that tracks your online habits. Software such as Spybot is available online for free download, and will defend against spyware.
A third type of malware is adware. Adware can hijack your homepage or pollute your system with advertisements. Ad-Aware is free anti-adware software that can be downloaded from the Internet. Pop-ups are very common, but are usually only a nuisance. A pop-up blocker can be activated on your Internet browser, such as Internet Explorer. Many computer service technicians prefer anti-malware software that is clean and simple. Some widely-advertised products do a good job to protect, but come with a great amount of “extras.” These “extras” can hinder the performance of your machine and are very difficult to uninstall. Some clean and simple (and free) software products are Avast, Spybot, Adaware and AVG. AVG (at www.free.AVG.com) provides both free and “professional” software for anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-adware. The cost of AVG Professional is competitive with Norton and MacAfee, runs cleanly, and is not difficult to uninstall. After installing anti-malware software, schedule regular updates and scans in order to protect your system on an on-going basis.
One more tool to safeguard your computer is a firewall. Firewalls provide a “window shade” to keep the Internet “peeping Toms” from detecting your computer. Shady fortune-seekers online have “Bots” that seek and find computers on the Internet that do not have a firewall. To protect your system, activate your Windows 7, Vista or XP firewall. Internet service providers, like Brighthouse, Verizon and Comcast, also offer firewall protection.
Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance of Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 753-8277.