Is Your Anti-virus Programme Working Properly
Question: Why do people get computer viruses even when they have
an anti-virus programme?
Answer: Usually it's because the anti-virus programme hasn't been
kept in working order. Often it has been simply ignored since the
day it was installed. That's like having a spare tyre which has
been left to go flat: not much use when you need it!
If you have an anti-virus programme, follow these two rules:-
1) Check regularly that its database of virus information is kept
up to date.
How to do this? - depends on the particular brand and flavour of
anti-virus programme you've got, but most of them can be set up
to do automatic updates.
Updating takes place whilst you're on-line and connected to the
internet. Your computer will connect to the anti-virus programme's
"home site", get a copy of the latest virus definition
files, and store this information on your hard drive.
This vital information is used by the anti-virus programme to
recognise viruses when they arrive in your computer, or when an
attempt is made to run them. (there are more than 50,000 viruses
known to exist)
Alternatively you can do the updating regularly yourself; the
method depends on the particular programme you've got, but reading
the instructions and help files is a good start. How often this
should be done is a matter of opinion, but the longer you leave
it between updates, the more risk you take. If you do the updates
yourself, at least you know the job's been done. I prefer to update
the definition files on my computer once a week.
2) Periodically scan all the files on your hard drive with your
anti-virus programme. This can take some time, so do it when you're
not needing your computer for any other jobs. This should pick up
any suspicious files that have found their way into your computer,
even if they haven't yet been activated or run. Some malicious files
may not be detected until an attempt is made to run them, and a
good virus scanner should intercept them when this happens.
However, unless you follow rule 1 above, the newest and most trendy
viruses may sneak past your anti-virus programme if it fails to
If you're not sure whether your antivirus programme is up to date
and properly configured, call for help. If you bought the software
from a computer shop they should know how to properly set up the
product they're selling and it would be reasonable to expect them
to tell you how to use it, or set it up for automatic operation
if they installed it for you.
Whatever happens, don't leave your virus protection to chance.
Dealing with the aftermath of a virus infection can be a very distressing
(and maybe expensive) experience.
John Selby, technical bloke
First printed in SNN Newsletter March 2002