How to Avoid Viruses

There are viruses all over the Web, just waiting to infect your computer. These malicious software programs can corrupt or erase the data on your hard drive. However, if you take the proper security precautions, you can surf to your heart's desire without ever contracting a virus.
How to avoid viruses
Email. One of the most common methods of spreading viruses is through email attachments. The virus file is typically launched when you open the attachment. For that reason, it's important to set your preferences so that your email program doesn't open attachments automatically when you view a message. Never click on any email message from any person you don't know if it contains an attachment. Instead, delete it without opening it. Also, watch out for links in email messages from strangers, especially spam emails. They may send you to a site that will put a virus on your computer.
For more, read our article "Keep Your Email Safe and Avoid Spam".
Instant messaging. Instant messaging (IM) is another way that viruses can get on your computer. Often, the virus is in a file or a link that's included with the IM. The same rules for email messages apply here—don't click on any file or link from any person you aren't familiar with.
Web surfing. There are many ways you can avoid viruses when perusing the Web. Many suspect Web advertisements claim that they have a message for you, that you're a winner or that your computer is infected with spyware or viruses. There's always a chance that clicking on such a site could infect your computer. Avoid ads that appear on search engine results pages, which are a favorite of virus writers. The same goes for any pop-up ads and messages that make suspicious claims. Clicking anywhere in these pop-up windows can infect your computer.
If you’re having a hard time closing a pesky or potentially infectious pop-up, do the following:
  • In Windows XP* and Vista*, hold down CTRL, ALT and DELETE simultaneously to bring up Task Manager
  • In the Applications tab, find the name of the pop-up window
  • Click it and select End Task
  • In Mac OS X*, navigate to your Applications folder
  • Open the Utilities folder
  • Open Activity Manager, select the name of the pop-up window, and selectQuit Process
Antivirus software
For your computer to be as secure from viruses as possible, you should keep antivirus software on it, and updated. For the greatest security, make sure that you turn on active protection. Run a virus scan weekly. If you've chosen a free antivirus solution, visit that website to run a full online virus scan each week. For more on virus software, read our article "Pick the Right Virus Protection Program".
If you have Windows XP or Vista on your computer, you can also run theMalicious Software Removal Tool* from Microsoft. This freesoftware program is designed to check for and remove the most prevalent viruses from your computer. If you're running Mac OS X, consider installingiAntivirus*, a free antivirus designed just for Mac.
Browser security settings
Changing your Web browser security settings can help to keep your computer secure from viruses. In Windows XP:
  • Click Start > Control Panel Network and Internet Connections >Internet Options
  • Click the Security tab and select the Internet icon
  • Select Custom Level and Medium-High or High as your security level
  • Click OK to save changes and exit

In Windows Vista:
  • Click Start > Control Panel > Network and Internet > Internet Options
  • Select the Security tab and then click the Internet icon
  • Click Custom Level. Reset the level to Medium-High or High
  • Click OK to save changes and exit
In Microsoft Internet Explorer*:
  • Open your browser and click Tools > Pop-up Blocker Settings
  • Put the settings on Medium or High
If you're running Safari* in Mac OS X:
  • Open Safari. Click Safari > Preferences
  • Uncheck the box next to Open 'safe' files after downloading
  • Select the Security button. Uncheck the buttons beside Enable plug-ins, Enable JavaScript and Enable Java
  • Check the button beside Block pop-up windows
  • Also, set the browser to accept cookies only from sites that you browse to.
If you're using FireFox* with Mac OS X:
  • Open your browser and click Tools > Options > Select the Security button
  • Check the boxes beside Warn me when sites try to install add-onsTell me if the site I'm visiting is a suspected attack site and Tell me if the site I'm visiting is a suspected forgery site
  • Uncheck the box beside Remember passwords for sites
By implementing these steps, you'll ensure that viruses have less of an opportunity to infect your computer. However, in the event that your computer is infected, be sure to remove or quarantine the virus promptly—you can do this automatically with your virus software.

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