By Jeff Vedders

With the outbreak of the MS Blaster and Sobig worms last month, we thought it might be a good time for reminders and advice on how to prevent and treat computer virus infestations.

The best way to keep viruses off of your computer is to install antivirus software.  Norton Antivirus and McAfee Virus Scan are two excellent programs.  However, you must do more than just install the software.  Equally important is keeping your virus definitions up to date.  New viruses are introduced all of the time, and without a current database of virus definitions, you may be vulnerable to infection.  You should at the very least update the definitions weekly if not daily.

If you have never installed virus software, make sure you do a full system scan on your hard drive when you first install.  It will identify any infected files along with an option to repair the file.  In some cases you will not be able to repair the file, and you will be forced to delete it.

Once the software is installed, you will want to set it up to scan any removable media inserted in your system (floppy discs and CD-ROMs) as well as to scan any files downloaded to your system, including email attachments.

A word about email attachments: they’re a popular way to spread viruses.  In addition to scanning email attachments for viruses, it is a good idea to delete any attachments that aren’t from someone you know.  In fact, if you question the attachment at all, delete it.

How do you know if you have a computer virus?  Just like in humans, your computer may display one of the following symptoms:

º    Unusual messages or displays on your monitor

º    Unusual sounds or music played at random times

º    Your system has less available memory than it should

º    A disk or volume name has been changed

º    Programs or files are suddenly missing

º    Unknown programs or files have been created

º    Some of your files become corrupted or suddenly don’t work properly

If you suspect a virus or your antivirus software identifies a virus and your computer is in a networked environment, disconnect the computer immediately so it doesn’t infect other computers on the network. 

In addition, many computer viruses and worms are written to exploit flaws found in Microsoft Windows.  It is imperative that you keep your version of Windows up to date.  The following link can help you update your version of Windows:

Source: How to Protect Against Computer Viruses, Bruce Stewart, ZDNet Reviews & Solutions, © 2002 CNet Networks, Inc., All Rights Reserved