Virus and Malware Street Smarts

Revision as of 15:21, 7 December 2009 by Christopher Hunt (talk | contribs) (Email tips)

Viruses are rampant on the internet. Middlebury students, faculty, and staff computers often get infected even when they are being relatively cautious - sometimes, with severe consequences. Here are some tips to minimize the chance that you'll get viruses.

Computer security

  • Ensure that your antivirus software is active and up-to-date. For PCs, the antivirus icon should always be visible in the lower-right side of the screen near the clock. Double-click this icon to open up options to run a scan, update the virus database, and so on. Many antivirus programs will conveniently turn grey if they aren't working correctly.
  • Install all security updates on your computer as soon as your computer asks you to. Better yet, set your computer up to install them automatically.
  • If you think your computer is infected, act immediately. At least run a scan to check for infections. Don't ignore the problem and keep using the computer.
  • Be wary of using public computers and public wireless connections. For example, never make financial transactions using unsecured internet connections or public computers.

E-mail prudence

  • If the SPAM mails you receive have an "Unsubscribe" link, do not click it. Trustworthy companies are required by law to provide such a link in order to allow you to opt out of newsletters and so forth; unscrupulous SPAM senders can trick you into clicking the link, which effectively confirms for them that yours is a valid e-mail address. You'll likely get more SPAM after clicking such a link.
  • Be careful with e-mail attachments. E-mail attachments from someone you don't know, or forwarded to you in a chain e-mail, or attachments that are an unfamiliar or confusing file type, should be treated as suspicious. If you think an attachment might be important, download it to your Desktop and use your antivirus software to scan it for viruses before opening it.
  • Never respond to emails asking for your personal information. No valid source will ask you for personal information by email.

Infection first-aid

Your Windows computer is infected, you need to use it, and you can't get help right now. Fortunately there are some quick steps that you can take to try to exorcise the virus(es).

  1. Restart the computer in Safe Mode. While restarting the computer, press F8 once every second to load the Windows "emergency startup" menu. Select Safe Mode with Networking and press Key Enter.PNG to load a bare-bones version of Windows. When Windows has started up, you can use programs and access the internet as normal - but non-essential programs (including any viruses) will not start up, meaning that you can do more diagnostics here.
  2. Scan your system with MalwareBytes. Malwarebytes is a free virus/spyware cleaning program. Download it from the Malwarebytes website, install it (ideally while inside Windows' Safe Mode), and run a full system scan. MB often finds and removes viruses that other virus scanners miss, but it is not perfect.
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