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First things first

 

First things first

By The Computer Quack
Before we go about protecting your PC, the first thing we must know is: IS IT INFECTED?
It is pointless installing antivirus software on an infected PC, as many of the new Viruses detect your countermeasure and delete or disable it, rendering it useless. So the first thing to do is scan your PC thoroughly for any signs of infection.
Fortunately, there are a number of free online scanners available on the Internet that allows you to do this without installing any permanent software on your PC. Most of these will only work on Microsoft Internet Explorer:
Trend Micro Housecall:
http://housecall.trendmicro.com/
Panda ActiveScan:
http://www.pandasecurity.com/homeusers/solutions/activescan/
BitDefender Online Scanner:
http://www.bitdefender.com/scan8/ie.html
Kaspersky Free Virus Scan:
http://www.kaspersky.com/virusscanner
F-Secure Online Scanner:
http://support.f-secure.com/enu/home/ols.shtml
Run any one of these and see if your PC is already infected with something malicious (or “malware” as we will call it here). If it is, the chances are that you either have no antivirus software running, or you have not kept it up to date. If you do have an infection, install one of the freeware anti-virus programs listed below, and try and clean the PC. If the infection cannot be removed, you may need to use a specialist tool; there are several listed at:
http://free.grisoft.com/doc/29223/us/frt/0
VIRUSES AND TROJANS
Viruses and Trojans are probably the most prevalent form of hostile content on the Internet. They are usually attached to emails sent to thousands of computers simultaneously.
Some viruses do no damage at all; they simply install themselves on the PC and try and continue to spread by sending themselves to other computers. Others are very dangerous, and can damage or destroy software on your computer.
Trojans are usually a more sinister threat, since they are not designed to replicate themselves, but are mostly intended to fulfill a specific function, which is normally to relieve you of your money, directly or indirectly.
One example of this is to modify your Internet information so that you are redirected from valid web sites to a fake copy set up by the criminals that control them. This most often happens with Internet Banking, in an attempt at fooling you into entering your logon and password. (Note this is similar to “Phishing”, which is described in more detail below).
It is very important that you have anti-virus software installed on your computer. However, you must not just install anti-virus software and forget about it! New viruses and Trojans are released every day, so you must make sure that your anti-virus software updates regularly (daily is as good as any) to protect you against emerging threats.
Also, because new Viruses and Trojans hit the Internet every day, it is not enough to rely on your antivirus software to catch everything. If you receive ANY email with an attachment, and you were not expecting it, then DO NOT OPEN IT. Even if it looks as if it comes from someone you know, you cannot be too careful, and it is best to check first before opening an unknown attachment.
Below, you can find several very good, and more importantly FREE anti-virus programs which you can download from the Internet and install on your PC. If you like any of the programs, you can often also purchase a “professional” edition, which has more features, but if you want to save money, the free versions are fine just as they are.