This page is a quick, ad hoc list of various links and tips that can help prevent your computer from being victimized by virus, "spyware," "adware," and the like
1. Keep your Windows system up to date, by either turning on the "Automatic Windows Update" feature, or choosing the "Windows Update" option in your Start menu. You can also directly visit windowsupdate.microsoft.com
2. Make sure you have anti-virus software installed, and KEEP IT UPDATED! Anti-virus software that isn't updated regularly is nearly useless in detecting and preventing infection from currently circulating viruses, Trojan horse software, worms, and the like. Anti-virus companies typically charge $20 or so per year for a continuing subscription to the latest updates of their anti-virus protection. Their software gives you the option of having the latest protection automatically downloaded and installed on your machine. Two of the largest anti-virus software vendors are Symantec and McAfee.
3. Use a "firewall," which is software (there are hardware firewalls too) that sits between your computer and the Internet, monitoring traffic either being sent to your computer from someplace on the Internet, or information being sent from your computer to the Internet. Much of this traffic is intentional and harmless, such as when you send email, or a Web page is sent back to your browser. But some of it can be malicious, such as automated hacking tools probing every Internet address for weaknesses, or such as a program on your computer sending out unauthorized transmissions. An example of this last might be a "spyware" program, inadvertently downloaded to your machine (maybe as part of a "free Internet utility" or toolbar that someone chose to download). More malicious examples might include 1000s of "spam email" messages being sent from your machine by a rogue program that's "hijacked" it. Several companies sell firewall software (and Windows XP comes with one built in, though it is turned off by default). One company that makes a well-regarded free-for-the-download firewall is Zone Alarm (they also make a "professional version" which is not free).
You'll also want to have at least two "spyware" (or "adware") checking programs on your computer, which you will want to run regularly. Two of the best (both of which are free for the download are "Spybot Search and Destroy" and "Ad-aware."
These pages are
maintained by the Center for Teaching
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Questions? Contact us!