The internet is a wonderful place to get information, stay in contact with friends and family, even do your shopping or start a business. But it also has many hazards.
The first hazard that everyone runs into is viruses. These little nasties can do all kinds of things, from being a mere annoyance to destroying your data, or worse yet, sharing it.
It doesn’t matter what kind of internet connection you have; everyone is subject to getting viruses. This is because many viruses do what is known as “spoofing” email addresses, where they forward themselves to every email address in an address book, but do not necessarily use the email address address they took the information from. Some will even claim to have been scanned by popular antivirus software so that you might mistakenly trust them.
There are a few things you must do to avoid viruses. First, do not open any attachment you weren’t expecting. If you get an email from a friend with an attachment, don’t open it if you don’t know what it is. Go ahead and email them back to make sure it’s real. If it’s from someone you don’t know, it’s probably for the best that you do not open the attachment at all.
Be careful about using your preview pane. Some viruses have been known to open that way. You may be best off just viewing a list of the emails you have received and clicking only on the ones you want to read.
Finally, and most important, keep your antivirus software up to date. There are many good antivirus products out there. Norton Antivirus is preinstalled on many systems, so this is an easy one to install, but really not my favorite. I've been using Avast antivirus, available free from download.com. Microsoft Security Essentials is also considered to be a good, free program as of this writing.
Any antivirus program you purchase will have to be renewed annually and should tell you when it is time to renew. You want it to be able to update itself with new virus definitions regularly, as new viruses come out all the time.
Antivirus protection is the absolute minimum you must give your computer if you go online. Next week we will take a look at some of the other steps you need to take to keep your computer safe and your internet browsing experiences more pleasant.
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