Anti-Virus, Internet Security, Total Security…. Or nothing at all?

So you heard your neighbor talk about anti-virus. Do you have it? What do you use? How much did you pay for it? All of these questions and you aren't even sure what the difference is between a virus and a worm.

So let's get back to the basics. When the Internet hit our houses 20+ years ago viruses were the results of surfing those dirty sites or ending up on the wrong side of the Internet. Fast forward to the late 2000s, we find ourselves in the midst of a war between the creators of viruses and the people who try really hard to protect us from it.

Now the term “virus" can be seen as any unwanted software and/or access to your computer. Viruses include worms, malware, spyware etc. Click here to read more about this. Left undetected and “untreated", viruses can cause major damages to your operating software - anything from corrupt windows files, loss of data and even identity theft.

But if I only use my computer to watch movies and read my emails, how can I be affected? It is actually much easier than you think. First of all, unless you are watching a genuine copy of a movie on a DVD, one that you purchased legally from a store or rented from your local DVD store (Yes! You still get those), the material you got from a friend – could come from anywhere. Whether you borrowed a hard drive or a flash drive or got a copied DVD, all these mediums are potential "carriers" of viruses. With that being said, you will not eat with a spoon that you picked up next to the road? Why? Because you do not know where it's been. Yet you are comfortable with sticking a flash drive into your computer (with or without antivirus) not knowing where it has been.

Next, just connecting your computer to the Internet opens your computer to the world outside. Viruses constantly move from one place on the Internet to the next looking for computers that don't have firewalls. They sneak into your computer and just wait there to be activated. Just because you can't see it does not mean that it's not there. Viruses can lie idle on your computer for days, weeks or months before it wreaks havoc.

So now you know how you get them and how vulnerable you really are to viruses, what is the next step?

You jump onto the Internet…  You Google “anti-virus" and you download the first “FREE anti-virus" you can find. Why? Because humans like to get stuff for FREE! But to be honest, if someone wanted to give you a car for free? You would be hesitant? What is the catch? What is wrong with the car? The same goes for software? Why do people give software away for free? Because it is a cut down version of the real thing. You will notice that with a lot of free versions you will be prompted to pay for premium services anyway to “get the job done”. These “anti-virus" programs are really not as great as they seem.

Now that I have convinced you to pay for your anti-virus, how do you choose the best one? And what's the difference?

Anti-virus Versions (not recommended)

These versions are cut down versions of the “good stuff" but they lack one very important feature…. A firewall. If you are going to use your computer on the Internet, even just to check your emails, you definitely want a firewall. The firewall prevents external intrusions over a network. So if you really don't ever use the Internet you can stick to the anti-virus, it will help prevent getting viruses from infected flash drives, hard drives and copied disks.

Internet security (Highly recommended)

This is what you want. It has all the bells and whistles of the anti-virus but offers you Internet protection as well. You can safely surf the web, read your emails and even do your banking. This option is pretty cost effective, ranging from R 300 to R 500 per year for up to 4 users. That means you can activate your software on 4 different devices.

Total Security (Recommended)

The biggest difference between this version and the Internet Security is that this one comes with added bells. Sometimes included into packages might be: windows optimizer, remote protection, encryption and so on. Spending the extra money on this one…. Well that is up to you.

So how safe will you be? Depending on the state your computer was before you added your security, will all depend on how well you will be protected. Some viruses write into your windows registries until you reinstall your windows. But your newly added software should keep them in quarantine. As for the rest you are probably 98% protected. Your software can only function optimally if it updates on a regular basis (preferably every day). When your security software warns you about possible intrusions,  be cautious of what you allow - your software can only function as well as you allow it to.

I hope this post gave you some insight on the importance of security and that it will help you make an informed choice when purchasing your software.

10 Most Common Viruses

Computers running Microsoft Windows have been the main target for viruses for decades now, but in the recent years more threats started targeting Mac OS. Mac OS has been quite difficult to “hack" since Apple had build in software to prevent unwanted software from accessing and installing on Mac OS, but this has changed rapidly. With Android becoming more popular, mobile security software has also been brought in to protect you from unwanted intrusions on your smartphone and or tablet. Here are a list of the most common viruses found and how they can affect your device / computer.

  • Worms

Worms are of the oldest viruses and have been around since the early 90’s. Not causing a whole lot of damage it will gain access to your computer and start multiplying. It will continue to do so until your hard drive became full and had no more space to multiply.

  • Spyware

In an environment where sensitive information is kept this virus can particularly be daunting. This little program installs onto your computer and monitors every single thing you do. Personal information can easily be stolen and used in identity theft.

  • Key loggers

This little program runs on your computer and “listens in" on everything that gets typed on your keyboard. Hereby passwords and ID numbers can be obtained and be used in illegal activities.

  • Trojan horse

This is an example of one of the viruses that Mac is facing now. Unwanted programs are filtering through, pretending to be from a trustworthy source, such as Adobe Flash Player, and then installs without the users consent. This type of software is called a Trojan Horse.

  • Time bomb

Not so popular, but could have devastating results, a Time Bomb is a virus that will lie inactive until a certain date and time and once activated, start damaging files on your computer.

  • Malware

Malware are typical examples of intrusions, such as banners popping up, dates changing by itself and even desktop icon changing to .exe formats. Although very annoying with a good security software installed you should be able to get rid of this without too much damage.

  • Rootkits

This type of virus could have potential devastating results. This software can install onto your computer and literally take control over your computer. It can also allow an outside  person to gain full access to your computer, change your user password and prevent you from using your computer completely.

  • Adware

Unwanted 3rd party software that attaches it to otherwise trusted software. It then gets installed while installing the intended software. This type of software can be anything from malware to spyware to rootkits.

  • Auto-run virus

Auto-run virus became particularly popular when Windows XP was still around. It would attach itself to a removable device (flash drive or external hard drive) and activate again on the next device when inserted there. The auto-run feature made the devices very easily accessible for viruses and to can easily travel from one device to the next. These infections can include anything; spyware, rootkits, Trojan horse etc.

  • Ransomware

This is one of the newest viruses out there. Unfortunately there is not much that can be done when infected with this one. This virus basically encrypts your data in such a way that only the person who developed the virus can decrypt it again. They then “hold your data for ransom", demanding money to safely decrypt your information again. Unfortunately paying them doesn't guarantee you anything. The first time I saw this virus, the client had Dropbox syncing between his desktop and his computer. The virus spread through Dropbox and the client ended up losing all his data (photos, documents , spreadsheets) on both devices. The only way of protecting yourself from this one is by using a proper internet security program and not opening attached documents from unknown sources.

By using a good anti-virus / security program you can reduce your chances significantly from getting infected by virus.

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