So you think your PC is secure. You have a resident Antivirus program, an Antispyware program and a firewall. You have Microsoft Updates set on ‘auto’ so that your copy of Windows is updated automatically as soon as one is available. You have set up all your third-party programs to notify you when any update becomes available. You have added all the recommended tools that don’t conflict, for example: IE-Spyad and SpywareBlaster to your PC. You have UAC turned ON in your new copy of Vista. Now you say “phew! My PC is secure so I now can do anything I want and be protected from all the nasties on the internet.”
So you search, you surf, you chat, you play games, and you visit websites at random and one day your computer slows down, getting slower and slower by the hour until it is impossible to do any of the things that you could do a few days ago. You can’t understand why, you know all of your protection is up-to-date, so you couldn’t possibly have a malware infection, could you?
Well, I hate to give you the bad news, but yes your computer now has the symptoms of a malware infection. You will have been infected by a brand new malware, probably because you clicked on that banner ad by mistake yesterday, you downloaded a new piece of software from one of the big name sites or from an unfamiliar site, you took a quick peak at that casino page or restricted page you know you shouldn’t be looking at, you opened that email attachment and the windows installer started, or maybe you automatically clicked “allow” (as you always do) when either UAC in Vista, or your third-party firewall asked if you should allow or deny a connection. So many different ways to be infected with brand new malware. You expect your AV company to have definitions to prevent every malware infection. Ask yourself how the AV companies get the definitions that they use to update your AV product daily. The only way they develop the definitions is AFTER some poor souls become victims of new malware, just like you have been now. The AV company will then obtain samples of the new infection and develop definitions to prevent and remove the new malware, and download those new definitions to your PC. The moral of this story is that the very best and latest protection is not always good enough to prevent a PC from becoming infected. The only thing that I know of that will prevent a PC from malware infections 99.9% of the time, is all of the above methods together with “conscious thought” and “awareness”. Yes, I said “conscious thought”, in other words caution and awareness of the risks of using the Internet. Every PC user must be aware of the methods the scumware/malware writers use to infect the average user. As well as thought, your sixth sense can play a part in keeping your PC safe. Whether you use the Internet with a browser, email, chat or other Internet enabled program, it is important to notice things that are out of the ordinary, sometimes it’s just a feeling you get that something is bad. For example:
clicking a link and finding yourself on a page that you didn’t expect.
Visiting a familiar website and landing on an unfamiliar page.
Clicking a link that starts an automatic download that you didn’t expect.
Following a link to a familiar site that doesn’t look exactly like it should.
Your PC starts to download something that you didn’t initiate.
You receive a file transfer that you weren’t aware was being transferred.
So if you want to be almost completely safe on the internet, you must think. No automatic program can keep you safe 100% of the time. Be aware when you are using your PC of any and all odd occurrences and immediately suspect anything that is out of the ordinary. If you arrive on an unexpected website, never click any links. If something attempts to download to your PC without you expecting it, stop the download.
The bottom line to maintaining a clean computer is to use your head. If anything unexpected happens, get off the internet and scan your computer with each of your protection programs. If your computer starts to slow down, get some help at one of the antispyware forums to clean it. In this day and age every infected computer should be cleaned by someone who knows what the malware does to a PC because many things can be left behind on the infected PC because of the nature of the malware. Many people have been left with infected files after cleaning their own computer which have later caused them serious problems. Be cautious, even suspicious when surfing the internet, you never know where the latest malware is hidden!