As a general rule of thumb, there are some things that are good to do to keep your computer running its best.
- Keep everything up to date!
- Don’t click links you’re unsure about.
- Don’t visit questionable websites.
- Run an anti-virus program.
- Scan with an anti-virus program and an anti-spyware program at least once a month.
Keeping programs up to date is one of the easiest ways to prevent a Virus or Spyware infection. Windows XP, Vista, and Mac OS X will all prompt you to install updates if you have it configured to do so. It is configured as such by default.
As for updating all the other programs installed, we use a program called Secunia PSI. It scans your computer for all the programs installed that it has in its database. It then checks it against the current versions of those programs and provides you with links to where to download updates. You can download it here. It’s an amazing tool to know what to update.
As a general rule, you should keep your Operating System (XP, Vista, OSX) as well as Java and Adobe Flash Player up to date. Those are the most common ways viruses and spyware can gain access to your computer.
As a rule of thumb, don’t click on links to suspicious websites. In many programs, you can mouse over the link to see the HTTP address. Just remember to air on the side of caution.
Don’t go to suspicious sites. If you’re not sure about the site, try searching Google for it. If a lot of hits come up like “Spyware, removal of spyware, virus related” etc, don’t go to that site. Also, if you had gotten a virus in the past from a questionable website, don’t go to that website again.
Run an anti-virus program. This should be really easy for people affiliated with UMass. UMass has a site license for McAfee Enterprise Virus Scan. You can get it on the OIT website here. If you have an older version of McAfee Enterprise Virus Scan installed, uninstall it first. It might cause weird errors to occur if installing just over the older version. Also, if you have any other anti-virus programs installed, you should only have one installed. You shouldn’t have more that one anti-virus program installed, as they tend to fight each other and slow everything down. Uninstall all but one anti-virus program.
The last way to protect yourself is to run full scans with your anti-virus and anti-spyware software once per month, whether you think you need it or not. Think of it like an oil change for your car. It cleans out all the sludge that may build up, whether you see it or not. If you have the version of McAfee Enterprise Virus Scan distributed from the OIT site mentioned above, McAfee will update itself every day, and run a full scan in the background once a week. You should also run a full scan once a month with your anti-spyware software of your choice. We use Spybot Search and Destroy, which can be found here.