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In the first issue of the series, I discussed about the basic yet effective ways of combating email SPAM and talked about remaining safe from Phishing. And today, on the roll of honour, we have:

  1. Viruses
  2. Spyware

So lets get started!! 🙂

Viruses: Computer users(especially Windows users) hate Viruses perhaps more than SPAM and the reasons are obvious!! While SPAM is just a form of (un-ethical)marketing which atmost just fills up your INBOX and clogs the network traffic on the servers, Viruses do much more than that, they can destroy your files, documents, even your operating system.

Now, a lot of the narrow minded people(with clouded vision) blame Microsoft for the Viruses that target(& wreak havoc on) its universally popular & most widely used Windows operating system. They just rant on about how scummy Windows is & how people will be better off using either Linux or Unix operating systems(Mac OS-X is a Unix based operating system, based on FreeBSD). What they fail to understand is the reason for these Viruses and why their authors unleash them, and even more sickening is the fact that these people are not aware of the Viruses that exist for Unix/Linux operating systems, they after all are not 100% secure & impregnable!! 🙄

First, we should know why Virus authors write those nasty bits of computer programs that harm your little digital friend(your computer ofcourse). Most of the times, its just for fun or fame, to get recognition. Sometimes it can be for money as well, either accepted from someone else for wreaking havoc on Windows installations worldwide or making money in some other way. But then the question is why Windows? Why not Linux or Mac OS-X? The reason is plain & simple, but is not visible to those with clouded vision & narrow minds!! Windows is targetted simply because its the most popular operating system around. Targetting Windows means you are targetting about 90% of the computers in the world. So just think about it, if you are writing a Virus, then you’d want it to spread on as many computers as possible. So would you target an operating system that’s on about 90% of the computers in the world, or would you choose an operating system that’s on barely 5% computers in the world? Ofcourse, if you have even little sense, you’ll target the 90% segment & that is the Windows.

So all those narrow minded idiots calling out for people to switch over to Unix or Linux, think about it. Once people start using those operating systems, they’ll be the next(& obvious) targets of the Virus writers, the price of the popularity afterall. So? Will you switch over to Windows then? Or perhaps create a new operating system all-together? 🙄

You’ve got to understand, nothing is 100% safe & secure. Its afterall was made by human mind, so another human mind can break it, its just a matter of time. Anything that has been made, can be destroyed, its a fact & you should accept it. Its not that you should stop fighting. No, life is all about fighting, about resistance, so you’ve got to resist them, fight them, that’s the only way out.

So after having that narrow-mindedness out of the way, lets come back to the topic, on how to safeguard your computer against Virus attacks. The most effective & only solution is an Anti-Virus software, unless you don’t want to lockup your computer away from any outside contact, be it a network(including internet) or any other storage media like CDs/DVDs etc. But getting an Anti-Virus software is not enough, you’ve got to keep it updated. If you have a regular internet access, its advised to keep your anti-virus software on auto-update mode(this is by default on almost all anti-virus softwares, or if not, then refer to the respective help manual). This will mean that your Anti-Virus will use your connection to check for updates periodically & when available, will download & install them automatically. This saves you the bother of having to check for updates every now & then and also overcomes the risk of you forgetting to update your Anti-Virus. People who don’t have a regular internet connection, well, they’ll have to look elsewhere to get the updates for their Anti-Virus software. Usually the computer magazines contain updates for major Anti-Virus softwares on accompanying CDs/DVDs and you can also download updates for your Anti-Virus by going into a public Internet Cafe(they are present almost everywhere).

If you are confused about what Anti-Virus software to choose, well, there are quite a number of them, almost all of them require you to purchase a license, though some are free. I’d recommend Norton Antivirus, though you can also look at McAfee, PC-cillin, AVG Anti Virus, Panda Anti Virus, Avast Anti Virus, etc. A Google search will reveal loads of Anti-Virus softwares, including the ones that I’ve mentioned.

If you think that you can’t spend on an Anti-Virus software or if you don’t want to spend money, then also you needn’t worry. You have the option to use AVG Free Edition or Anti-Vir Personal Edition, both of which are available for FREE for personal & non-commercial use. ClamAV is an open-source Anti-Virus that is FREE to use for any purpose, personal & commercial, and you can also have a look at OpenAntiVirus Project. Those who don’t want to bother with installation & regular updation of their Anti-Virus software, they can breathe a sigh of relief by using Trend Micro’s Free Online Virus Scan or McAfee FreeScan.

UPDATE: If you think that your PC is infected by a Virus and your updated Anti-Virus is unable to remove that virus, then you should get the Virus Removal Tool from Symantec website. They are available for FREE and remove the respective viruses quite effectively. To know the name of the virus for which you need the tool, refer to your Anti-Virus as it’ll tell you the name of the virus which it detected & failed to remove.


Spyware: Those of you who’ve been online for atleast a few months, there’s a strong possibility that you may have come across a software or two which installs some nagging screen or ad or something like that on your PC even when you didn’t want it to install that. Welcome to the world of Spyware. As per the name, Spyware are softwares that when installed on your PC, send information about you(like which websites you visit, how long you surf internet, etc.) to their parent servers where this information is stored in database. In essense, these softwares Spy on you. But its not limited to this. They can also collect sensitive info like your email addresses and emails in your address book, your credit cards and/or bank accounts, etc. And all this info is sent(without your knowledge) to their respective parent servers to be stored in a database. In almost all cases, Spyware are installed on your computers without your consent or knowledge, usually with free softwares like screensavers, etc. Like SPAM, this too is a huge industry with lots of $$ to be made, so Spywares are on the rise as well. And in almost all cases, Spywares resist your efforts to remove them & its pretty hard to get rid of them manually from your computer.

But like other evils that I’ve mentioned earlier, Spyware can be tackled easily as well. The solution is Anti-Spyware software, which can detect and weed out spywares & malwares(a cousin which is more dangerous as it can harm your computer, like viruses or worms etc.) from your computer. But like Anti-Virus softwares, you need to keep your Anti-Spyware software updated as well. I recommend Ad-Aware SE Personal which is FREE for personal & non-commercial use and is really effective in getting rid of unwanted junk(spyware) from your computer. Its updated regularly & you should check for updated definitions every 15 days. You can also have a look at Microsoft Anti-Spyware Beta which is available for FREE, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t know what Beta software means, its not stable yet, so it may work, it maynot work. Some other popular ones are Trend Micro Anti-Spyware, McAfee AntiSpyware, Spyware Eliminator, Spyware Doctor. If you don’t want to install or pay for an Anti-Spyware software, then you can use Trend Micro’s Free Online Spyware Removal service.

Here we come to the end of this installment of the “Basics for Surviving Online” series. I hope that you like it and will pay heed to it to remain safe in your ventures in the cyberspace!! 😉