Friday, February 24, 2012

PC Viruses

It has been a while since I posted about PC viruses

Why now?  Because I encountered a resident with one today for the first time in years.   I don't see a lot of them.   When a virus occurs, it is extremely bothersome.   And dangerous.   Then, if its outward signs are removed, is it really gone?   Will it come back?    Is it still watching?

My role, of course, is not to clean out viruses, but to help others deal with them and preferably avoid them.   My role is to provide the tools for others to help themselves, which are usually the latest and newest tools.

The first rule is not to get viruses.   The best way to deal with any problems is to avoid them, such as  through care in accessing suspicious sites and responding to questionable EMails and attachments.    Note the last especially.   Just don't open every attachment from anyone.  You will absolutely get a virus sooner or later.

There are ways to avoid such exposures, such as so-called tunneling software and virtual private networks.   Better that we avoid the complexity.

There are indeed those who deal with old systems and their particular vulnerabilities, even viruses.     It can be costly for a larger enterprise to shift into new systems.    My old C-language teacher, an expert in new computer languages, travelled the world updating aged Cobol programs.    Cobol programmers were getting scarce.

It is simpler to avoid problems.    Internet Explorer especially has been found to create an exposure.   Windows itself is the largest target for computers.  Users themselves are the biggest exposure.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports can guide us to the more desirable protective software.   And make sure that software is working and not expired.     CR recommends AVG and Microsoft's own Microsoft Security Essentials.   Both free.  

But suppose you get a virus anyway.   What to do?

The safest solution is just to reinstall the OS.   You can make that simpler with advance preparation.

Elsewhere I have made the case for keeping everything safe in the cloud.   If you do, it is a lot simpler to reload the OS than to deal with the virus at all.    And safer.   And very quick to do.   The coming Windows 8 is very fast to install.    Rather than install Windows 8 this spring on an old  relic of a machine, buy a new computer which will outperform the best of the old machines.    My Dell dual processor workhorse is less than a year old and cost just $280.

You might first try tools like Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool.     Then, there is Ad-Aware.   At some point, with so many viruses, nothing will work.    No software provides complete remedies or safety.

Obviously the most recent operating systems are best protected.     Like cars, the newer computers are safer.

You could get a Unix based device like a Mac, iPad, Kindle Fire, Chromebook, or even smartphone.   All of these are structured and engineered more safely than Windows.    I have never had a virus reported with any of these.  

Ubuntu Linux can be installed in parallel with Windows as a backup, with full access to old files.

The old big unwieldy systems are being replaced by smaller systems as cell phone based  systems like iOS and Android grow up to ever larger computers and...take over.  Example,(click for) the ASUS Transformer.