Too many people here and around the world are losing important information on their computers because of computer viruses. There are also huge financial costs and damage to reputations from malware which can hide on your computer the same as a virus. Malware can steal your identity and financial information so others can steal from you. It spies on your web browsing and then reports back to the owner of the program. Just the kind of thing we all want on our computers, right?
In the early days of personal computers a virus could only be spread by directly inserting removable media (we called them floppy disks) from someone else’s computer. Photos, games, homework or anything else could have a virus concealed on the disk with the desirable files. Even in this primitive version of file sharing we had big issues with viruses. One kind, detected the type of graphics card in your computer and then changed the settings so the wrong voltage was sent to your monitor. At best the monitor melted and was ruined. At worst, it burned down your house or dormitory room, maybe killing a few people from smoke inhalation. The people who wrote it did not intend that it spread beyond their original targets or that it would kill anyone.
Why would smart people spend their time trying to hurt others or their equipment? It is difficult for me to imagine doing something to harm others like that. Yesterday I heard news commentators interviewing an expert about a new computer worm designed to destroy power plants (as in nuclear plants). This was done by one country to be able to hurt another country’s industry and shut down nuclear plants without bombs or missiles. I think bombs are a bad thing, but this could end up as bad or maybe worse.
I am not sure how much better off the world is with a “Cyber War” capability being spread by computer networks. What happens when our virus programmer “wannabe” types get a copy of this professionally engineered worm? What if they make a few changes and the refinery, or power plant near you is taken down by the program. If it shuts off cooling water, there are many things that can react explosively. I think back to the melted monitors of the 1980’s and try to imagine an oil refinery or nuclear facility engulfed in smoke and flames. What happens to the sick person depending on electrical power to be able to breathe. What happens to communications, fire departments, newborn babies, older people on life support?
It is not my decision who should have nuclear capabilities or who should not. All that I do know is that this is a world full of many good people. There are also many other people who could be good people if they were not paralyzed by fear, and kept that way by others who find it useful to have them afraid. It is just insanity to make any more virus programs, malware, or worms. That sums up my opinion of the people who would deliberately wreck things and I do not wish them well.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MYSELF?
Never open an attachment you were not expecting to receive. Most of the bad programs reside in attachments in emails now that the floppy disk is mostly gone. It only takes a few seconds to ask your friend if they sent you something. TRUST NO ONE AS FAR AS ATTACHMENTS ARE CONCERNED. I avoid several virus attacks each year by doing exactly that.
Use your head when traveling through sites on the internet. Much of the Malware is inserted through “cookies” when you visit a site. Cookies can be a good thing too. Some sites automatically know who I am because of good cookies stored by my browser and do not ask for my user name or password. If you turn off cookies you avoid a lot of the potential problems too.
Buy a good antivirus program or download a free one like Avira
. Avira has worked very well for us. If you want the premium version with no commercials or if you are a business you will have to pay. Otherwise you can do pretty well with the free version and using common sense about where you go and what you open. HERE IS A LINK: http://download.cnet.com/Avira-AntiVir-Personal-Free-Antivirus/3000...
Also here is a review from a trusted source(PC Magazine) it covers many other antivirus and anti malware programs. Once you have malware it is difficult for many of the programs to remove it. I try to only go through a safe source like PC Magazine to download free programs. I have learned not to trust the first link the search engine finds. You never know who might have stuck a virus into a site that is not secure. Here is the link: http://www.pcmag.com/category2/0,2806,4796,00.asp
Consider using a browser that tracks bad sites. Firefox is free and it lets you know if there have been reports of recent virus or malware activity on a page. It uses a color code to let you know the comparative safety of a site. I hear that Google Chrome is good too. This link is to the page describing firefox security in English. You can also view it in other languages. It is free and advanced in protection capability. http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/features/#security
Keep your antivirus program up to date and also your browsers. As soon as an exploit or vulnerability is found the better companies will make a security update available.
Do not live in fear. Just be aware that you must be careful where you go and what you do. You would not go swimming in shark infested water with a bloody piece of raw meat tied to you. Likewise use your head with the internet and email.
Be good and be safe. Bob