I’m not going to tell you not to use antivirus (Though I don’t use any myself). I’m not going to present some kind of conspiracy theory about how the antivirus companies partner with the virus makers to create demand for their products (Though I’m nearly cynical enough to believe it). Ever heard of the” Conficker” virus? If you read the news, you have. And what does it do? How do you get it? Has that been clearly published in the news? Nope. What’s the answer to this supposedly vicious threat? Buy more antivirus. Upgrade antivirus and antispyware. Is the Conficker virus any worse than any other virus that’s ever been put out? No way. I can’t say whether all the media hype about this virus is somehow backed y the antivirus developers, but it’s quite clear they got a huge sales and at least interest boost out of all the media coverage. Visitor counts to antivirus websites shot up when the story first broke the news. I don’t have a problem with antivirus developers making money – but don’t try to scare us into buying your stuff.
Ever seen those TV commercials that say “Finally Fast?” Do you believe that whatever they’re selling will speed up your P4 2GHz to rival a Phenom on a DDR3 platform? How about Registry Optimization? Those of us with technical experience don’t – but not the average PC user. How can they know? Nobody is offering general knowledge to the masses, protecting them from exploitation. I have some advice for the average PC user on how to avoid viruses and spyware, even if you don’t use antivirus at all! Besides, even if you have antivirus, if you pick up the latest strain of malware, it’ll get right by any one of them that doens’t have strong heuristics (the ability to identify undefined malware). This is something that the big software/hardware companies have failed to do – provide the public service of general education on how to have a positive experience using their products. Here are a few points that should help you avoid viruses and malware threats, and generally have a better, safer experience on your PC:
#1 STAY CALM, DONT’OVERREACT
If you’ve ever been in a car accident (or just watched reality TV), you may know what it looks like when people in accidents freak out, lose their cool, etc. Most of us probably ask ourselves, “Don’t they know it won’t help anything to freak out like that?” Sure, there are emotional people and we should sympathize with them, but indeed it does not help at all. Just because you see a new virus threat on the news does not mean you have to immediately spend any [more] money on your antivirus solution. If you can use some of the techniques below, you will avoid the vast majority of malware threats out there. You don’t have to know much about computers to take ownership of what happens on yours. If you’re got a virus on the PC – there’s nothing to do other than find out how to deal with it. Using search techniques below, you can find out what’s going on with your PC, and even find free help fixing it yourself, if you’re so inclined. Or, you can call up one of the big brands to clean your PC remotely or in-home. It will be relatively expensive, but so is repairing a damaged car. In either case, these are necessities for our daily lives nowadays, so let’s be Triple-C (Calm, Cool and Collected), and just accept it. Just plan to do better at avoiding that situation next time around.
#2 CONTROL YOUR PC’s ENVIRONMENT
If you live alone, this is not an issue. For many of us, we share our PC with others in the household. The existence of the threat of malware, fraud, and other attacks needs to be accepted by all who use the PC, and reasonable ground rules need to be set. You paid for the PC, you own it – protect it. If you don’t want anyone on the PC after 10pm, that’s your right – they wouldn’t even have a PC if it wasn’t for you anyways. This is what they refer to as “physical security” of your PC.
#3 LEARN HOW TO AVOID MALWARE & VIRUSES
For most of us, this occurred due to trial and error. We got viruses, downloaded malware we thought was something else, and had to deal with the consequences (cleaning, reintsalling, reformatting!). The goal is for us as a technological society to push the bar higher and emphasize the key techniques to staying free from infection, so that other will have a better experience moving forward. Here are a few points:
#4 HOW TO GET ALL THE ANSWERS
Here’s your real weapon against getting infected: Knowing everything. No, you don’t have explicit knowledge about everything but guess what? You’re on the internet right now, and every answer for every question about a PC has been asked and answered, probably multiple times, and are readily available for you at any moment – if you search properly.
If you have a question of any kind, type in the whole question into the search box. Then, take out all the small words that are not specifically relevant to the topic. Next, if there is a specific phrase or error message you are seeing, put that part in quotes. Then use the “minus” to remove anything that comes up in the search that you don’t want to see.
Those search techniques make you seem like a genius, as you’ll be getting the most specific results!
Basically, there are some things we can control, and others we can’t. As average PC/internet users, we CAN control what we click on, where we register your email, how to be heathily skeptical, and who and what gets on your PC in general. We can even control (to some extent) the recovery of a PC that has already been infected.
What we cannot control are the constant attempts by malware producers to try and infect us with their crap. When armed with information and a few basic techniques, we can all keep the malware menace out of our PCs. Please share this knowledge with others, share your thoughts on how you protect yourself on the web, reinvest your experiences so that others might have a better experience themselves.
Let’s end the melodrama and hype surrounding viruses and malware. Healthy skepticism and a bit of knowledge is really what is called for now.