One of the first things most people do when they get a new computer connected to the internet is to activate a Virus protection program. Installing an antivirus for PC or Mac is not only a smart thing to do, but it is also nearly a necessity if you want to protect your data. Good antivirus software protects your home or business computer from viruses and malware in their many forms.
What is Malware?
The term malware was coined to refer to all malicious software. Viruses are only one type of malware that can disrupt or destroy files on your computer. Malware includes viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, and adware. Let’s take a look at some of these.
Computer viruses come in many forms:
- Boot sector virus—like the name suggests, these viruses attack the master boot up of your computer. Often, the only way to get rid of a boot sector virus is to reformat the computer.
- Direct action virus—requires some action from the user to activate. They usually are attached to another file and remain dormant until that file is executed. Direct action viruses can be removed with an antivirus program.
- Resident virus—makes a home in your computer files, attaching itself to as many files as possible. Sometimes resident viruses will attach to your antivirus program and spread to every file on the computer.
- Multipart virus—just like the name says these viruses attack your computer from multiple avenues. Multipartite viruses can attach to any files and the boot sector, making them very difficult to remove.
- Polymorphic virus—can evade detection by antivirus software by changing its digital signature as it replicates.
Worms usually aren’t programmed to target specific files or applications. Instead, they replicate themselves, filling up any space on your drive and eventually eating through your existing files. This malicious software is delivered to your computer through an external source, like an email attachment or through a USB drive. Worms don’t attack a specific type of file, but they can wipe out the complete drive of your computer.
Like the mythological Trojan horse, this malware comes in disguise as a useful program. Users install a program that appears to be something they need. Some Trojan horses are cleverly disguised as a virus remover or cleaner.
The Trojan horses are just the delivery system for the more malicious software, such as ransom or spyware, or a backdoor for hackers to gain access to any data on your computer.
Just like the name indicates, ransomware will make a hostage out of the files, data, or even the operating system of your computer. Frequently the process includes encrypting your files, so that you cannot access them, and then offering to remove the encryption for a fee.
The growth of digital currency has driven the increase in ransomware because of the anonymity associated with a digital coin. Fans of Grey’s Anatomy may remember an episode where the hospital’s entire system was blocked to users, with the data-nappers demanding payment in Bitcoin.
Spyware and Adware
Spyware and adware are not actively malicious, but they will slow your system and are surely an invasion of your privacy.
Spyware monitors and tracks your internet activity, sometimes reporting the information back to scam artists, sometimes providing an opening for adware.
Adware usually shows up as pop-up windows that cannot be closed without clicking on a purchase button. Adware is increasingly showing up on mobile devices as well.
Get the Best Antivirus Protection
There are several free antivirus programs, but it is true that you get what you pay for. A free program has limitations and will only do so much to protect your computer. In addition, downloading a free antivirus program can be risky; it may be a Trojan horse.
There are several well-known and time-tested antivirus programs. If your computer was a new purchase, it probably includes the software for a quality antivirus program. Even if you are not a fan of the program included with your new computer, protect yourself by installing the antivirus before going online.
When you choose to purchase a new or different antivirus program, you have some option. You can buy these programs in a box at the office supply store or local discount store, or you can download them from the web. You may have to try several programs before you find one that you like.
Most web-based companies offer a free trial period or a free basic edition. You can run multiple protection programs at the same time, so you can compare them, and continue to provide more security while you are sampling the new program.
The best antivirus programs are the ones that actively protect you while you are browsing the internet. An active internet security system will block malicious sites from opening and capture viruses, worms, and Trojan horses before they get to your data.
Any antivirus program will require regular updates. As the malicious software is continuously changing and mutating, so must your security system. Quality protection programs will remind you to update.
Protecting Your Website with a Website Scanner
While antivirus protection of your work or home computers is commonplace, you may not have considered the value of protecting your website from malicious attacks. More and more individuals have their own websites, be it a blog, a business site, or an online journal. These sites need protection just like your home computer.
Why Protect Your Website
Malware can infect your website and put your site visitors at risk. If your website contains malware, some antivirus systems will not allow the site to open. More importantly, your website will lose its good reputation with search engines and users.
Besides malware, your website can be vulnerable to backdoor hackers who may install keylogging code to capture any keystrokes made by visitors to your site. If your site is an online store, keylogging code can capture credit card and other personal information from your visitors.
A website scanner will monitor your website, much the way your antivirus program scans your computer, for malware, including viruses and spy/adware. Some scanners will provide you with a report if they locate malware, other scanners will automatically disable the malware and then send you a report.
You can find online virus scan options as well as programs you can purchase. There are some quality online website scanner services. The best way to locate the legitimate and quality sites is to read articles and reviews that describe the services.
While free website scanners do exist, it is unlikely that you will find top quality protection for free. Some free website scans will give you a report of the risks on your site, but not do anything about those risks. Then the “free” program will offer to repair your site for a fee. Often these fees are more costly than purchasing a scanning service would be.
You should avoid any online offers that are unsolicited. In other words, offers that come without you having asked for them. It is especially important to avoid and ignore unsolicited offers relating to virus scans of either your PC or your website. If you receive an unrequested pop-up, close it immediately—it is likely to be a Trojan horse.
Also, always make sure that your computer’s antivirus program is up-to-date. An up-to-date program will decrease the chances of these malicious pop-ups appearing.
If you are looking for an online website scanner, it is possible that your search will activate a site with malicious intent. If you are conducting such a search, be sure to avoid clicking ads within articles or search results. Even an article posted on the most reputable review site is subject to advertising that contains malware.
Protect Yourself at Home and on the Internet
Virus protection for your home or business computer is just common sense. Making sure that your website has the same protection is less common, but it is an equally wise decision. With website scanning your protect not only your site but also your customers, visitors, and reputation.
It makes sense to use a website scanner program for any of your internet based activity.