Back when I started in the IT industry things were different. It was the late 90s and the scene was all about building custom computers and upgrading the older ones. Few virus infections ended up on my bench. Surprisingly though almost every customer had some kind of virus attack story to tell that he heard from someone. Today things are quite different. Virus removal and clean-up is our number one requested service. Close to 70% of computers we work on come infected with something or another. Virus tales got more twisted over the years as well because we now have many different infection types which are called different things. Spyware, malware, trojan, rootkit, and so on. One thing didn't change at all though and that is the scary virus infection stories that people tell. Even though some may find it incorrect but in this article I'm going to call all infections as viruses to keep it simple.
We usually hear two types of stories. It's either about how the virus got inside the computer and the user felt it the moment it happened or how it makes no sense the user's computer got infected (they have the best protection, they don't do anything naughty on the web, and it's just not fair). We hear relatively even number of these two versions of virus infection stories and even if the circumstances differ it's almost always the very similar. My goal here is to give some general information to you so you can be more on the look out for viruses in general.
1. There is no security suite which offers 100% protection: Most clients we service who experienced virus infections tell us they can't believe their computer is infected when they had a very strong virus protection running. Some of them even get upset if they were using the virus protection we recommended to them at the time their computer got infected. If it didn't protect their computer what was the point of having the protection? It's a good questions we answer over and over. Idea that a virus protection should always protect you is like saying having a police department (even the best one there is) should eliminate crime. Saying what is the point of virus protection if you'll get infected anyway is like saying what is the point of a police department when you know there will be crime. We tell most of our clients expect 90% protection from the best security suite and the rest is on your shoulder. Don't open suspicious looking emails or attachments. Don't click on suspicious links when browsing Internet (especially those inside pop-ups). In general always be on the look out.
2. If you recognize the sender of an email you can open it: We had people who opened an email thinking it was a UPS tracking number for their package as well as others who thought their best friend sent them something interesting. Many people get their email accounts hacked along with their address books. Once a spammer has the information it's a piece of cake to send mass mail to the stolen address book under the identity of the account holder. Be suspicious of the attachments and word choices in the email. If necessary call your friend and ask if they sent you such a message. This also goes for Facebook accounts.
3. Our ISP offers free virus protection and it's just as good as any other: We all like freebies and in some cases there is nothing wrong with them. I understand not everyone will agree with me on this but I'm a firm believer of paying for a computer security suite. Most paid programs have a dedicated team who are always alert about the new infections which means faster security suite updates. The point here is you want your security suite to know about the infection so it can stop it before virus comes inside. Paid programs also offer better support teams to help you as well.
4. My cousin ran a scan on my computer and told me virus is gone: Once you're infected and see a clear evidence please do not trust your cousin, nephew, uncle, or next door neighbor. These people may have the best intentions but most likely they will not know what needs to happen to fully remove the infection(s) or if they're experts in most cases we have seen they will just take a shortcut to get you of their back. Either seek professional help or call your security suite hotline. Things may get worse if they're not addresses correctly early on.
5. I swear I didn't do anything and virus just popped up on its own: Best way to avoid infections is to learn from them. It may be your roommate checking his emails or your girlfriend who got your computer infected. Finding out the truth will help you avoid falling into the same trap. It may even be you who got the computer infected, retrace your steps. Our experience tells us 9 out of 10 cases computer user invites the virus inside either by an oversight or not being careful at the time.
6. My computer is running slow, I think I have a virus: Yes viruses can cause dramatic performance loss! We can quickly run a test for this and find out if it's the case. It's a good idea to keep the other performance eating culprits in mind though. Low memory, overloaded operating system, over heating internal components can also cause poor performance.
7. I'm not connected to Internet on this computer so I don't get infected: Yes you're lowering your chances quite a bit but watch out for that USB memory stick or a CD of pictures your friend burned for you.
Let me know if you have others so I can add them to my list or would love to hear what you think!