So, what a big question this is, and one that I am asked often. No matter who you talk to, everyone will have a different answer to this dilemma. So, with that in mind, this blog is MY OPINION ONLY, based on my experience over the years.
Ok, so let's start by firstly talking about Viruses. I have found that keeping your machine clean from infections is more about your internet surfing habits then it is about what type of anti-virus you have installed. Going to suspect sites, opening forwarded emails, attempting to download pirated software, music and movies etc are all high risk activities that are pretty much guaranteed to infect your machine with malicious software. To give you an idea of what I am talking about here, I have a dedicated work machine in my home office, that I never use for social web browsing. It has NO ANTIVIRUS installed, and I have never had a single infection on that machine.
I have customers bring computers into the shop all the time that are riddled with adware, spyware, Trojans and the like. The first thing they say to me is " How can that be? I have an anti-virus program installed? " So, the first thing you need to realise is that there is not any anti-virus program ever written that will stop them all. New viruses appear and mutate every second of every day and they simply cannot ALL be stopped. A quality anti-virus program will generally have a strike rate of about 80%, but will still let the odd one through.
To put this into some perspective, If 20 infections are found on your machine by a service technician, and you are running a good quality anti-virus, Then theoretically your machine would have over 100 infections if you were not running any protection at all.
So, what exactly is a virus?
A virus is a piece of software or a program that is designed to make your computer do something without your permission. They can range from annoying adware, pop-ups etc, right through to full blown ransom-ware that can lock your computer and damage files on your hard drive. The latter will usually demand a fee from you to unlock your machine.
Who writes them?
Viruses are normally associated with crime syndicates and can be very elaborate in their execution. It is estimated that a piece of ransom-ware that circulated the world last year in various forms most notably the "FBI" virus, was netting a crime syndication from Greece over $1000.000.00 a day in paid ransoms by unsuspecting computer users.
This is not always the case however, and some viruses are written by unknown hackers, even school children, trying to make a name for themselves in the seedy underworld. Many of these seem to originate out of China.
So, How do I protect myself ?
You should always run a quality PAID antivirus. These are normally much better than the free ones floating about. I personally like TREND MICRO, as it offers good protection but stills runs quite light on the system resources. KASPERSKI is another good one in my opinion. I'm not a fan of NORTON or AVG.
You should NEVER open forwarded emails, funny photo's, jokes etc, even if they come from someone you know and trust. The sender has NO IDEA where these emails originated from.
NEVER click on the ADS to the side of sites that say things like "Scan your PC for free" OR " Win a free iphone" etc etc..... REMEMBER...NOTHING IS FREE lol.....
Have your machine professionally serviced at least once a year. I cannot stress how important this is. Just like your car, computers love to be serviced and cleaned up.
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OK Gang, so hopefully this helps you out. Happy surfing, See you next time.
Pete - Precision