So how did I get infected in the first place?

People often ask me how their system got infected in the first place, this article attempts to make you aware of where infections come from, in an attempt to help you prevent them in the future.

Outdated software

If your version of Windows is not up-to-date and you go online (especially without a firewall), you are prone to the very latest viruses via many different vulnerabilities in Windows it’s self.

If you are putting a new computer on to the internet, ensure it has the very latest windows updates. If you are unsure whether it is up-to-date, ensure you connect behind a hardware (often your router) or software firewall.

To find out if you have any updates remaining to be installed, visit the Windows Update website [http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/] (Internet Explorer Only).

Windows XP users can also use: Start > Run > type: wupdmgr.exe [OK]

For Windows XP users, ensure you have installed all the critical updates, including ServicePack2 (SP2).

If you are running an older version of windows prior to Windows XP SP2, I would recommend upgrading.

You can find out what version of windows you are running by using: Start > Run > type: winver [OK]

If you purchased a retail machine from manufacturers such as HP, Dell, Compaq, Packard Bell, Acer, Fujitsu, please ensure you have run their “Update Software” program. If you are unsure, I recommend contacting them and asking them how you can ensure you have the latest version of the software they supplied with your machine.

Ensure that any software you have installed is the very latest version, you can check by visiting the vendor’s website.

Additionally, it is important that you keep your anti virus and anti-spyware software up-to-date, failing to do this will leave your system vulnerable to infection.

Peer to peer

Generally peer-to-peer is the biggest problem out there.

Using software such as LimeWire, BearShare, and other such Gnutella protocol based applications cause no end of problems. Not only do some of these applications bundle their software with spyware which installs before you even use the application, but often you can download what you think are games, videos, music, software, when in fact it is actually malicious software.

If you do insist on using such software, consider LimeWire as it is one of the more respectable ones, but always be careful about what you download, as it may contain a virus.

Please also refer to the following articles:

Another form of peer-to-peer you may not have considered is Instant Messenger (IM), such as Windows Live Messenger, MSN Messenger, AIM, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Chat, mIRC, and many more.

Instant Messenger software can be a problem if one of your friends on your list is infected with a virus, this virus could sent a message to you asking you to download the virus from them. You may think that you would not be followed by this, however with a little clever wording and a forged filename, it can seem as if your friend is innocently sending you some photos. When in fact this is not the case.

This can often be the same with email, if your friend is infected, the virus could send you an infected email, in an attempt to infect your system.

The lesson here is, do not open anything you are not expecting! If you are unsure, ASK the person who sent it. However, DO NOT reply to people you do not know.

Bad websites

These are websites that are not established (in the media) that try and offer you something that you would usually have to pay for, such as, games, screensavers, wallpapers, software, music, movies, and pornography (also lyrics sites).

When you visit such sites these sites attempt to install spyware onto your machine, as this is how they get their money back for offering the service or product you’re trying to get for free.

You can attempt to avoid problems with such sites by using a browser other than Internet Explorer, such as Firefox [www.getfirefox.com] which is free to download.

If you’re unsure about what you’re downloading stick to popular known vendors that have been recommended by experts. Never download and run anything that you are unsure about.

When attempting to get rid of popups, do not ever press OK, always press cancel. Press the back button or use the drop down next to the back button until the popup goes away. If the back button is grey, close the window.

Summary

There is only so much anti virus and anti spyware software can do to protect you against viruses as there are new viruses all the time, including ones that the vendor is not yet aware of.

The best prevention out there is to use your common sense, pay attention to what is going on, if you are unsure, take steps to educate yourself by doing a bit of online research or asking an expert.

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