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Is Your Anti-virus Programme Working Properly

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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 recognise them.

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



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