Prevent Infection from Viruses and Spyware
Note: the following article is an opinion written by forum member ScottW.
Guests on the forum often ask how to prevent infection by a virus, spyware, or other types of malware. Often this question is asked after an infection has just been cleaned, but it is better to secure your system before an infection can take hold.
Preventing Infections from Viruses and Spyware
There are a number of things that you can do to decrease your risk of getting infected. You can also have so much protection that nothing else gets done. My advice is to find a balance that's right for you. Here are some suggestions that will increase your security.
- Use a NAT router with stateful packet inspection (SPI). Even if you are the only person on your home network, a properly configured router will prevent attacks on open ports. Port attacks are rare these days, but still very powerful.
- Use a software firewall, anti-virus (AV), and anti-spyware applications. Sometimes these all come together in a software suite. See below for references to security applications.
- Use spam and phishing filters, but don't rely on them. Phishing schemes, both as browser pop-ups or in e-mail, are now a very common way to become infected. In the worst case, falling for a phishing scheme can result in identity theft.
- Never open an attachment in e-mail that is an executable or can cause an executable to run. Even an attachment from someone you know can be infected because their system might be infected and they don't realize it.
- Keep your system up-to-date with patches from Windows Update. They are fixing security holes all the time. Also, applications are becoming a new vector for infection so you can also look for apps that need patching with the Secunia PSI program.
- Tighten up your browser's security. Use a pop-up blocker. With Internet Explorer, learn to use security zones which allow you to whitelist good websites. IE browser helper objects (BHOs) are a common means of infection. These BHO "hijacks" can be reduced using security zones and anti-spyware software. With Firefox, use the NoScript add-on which prevents scripts from running except on pages that are whitelisted. Scripts are another common means of getting infected.
- Be careful where you go and where you click on the Internet. Many web pages are designed to look appealing or look trusted in order to infect people. You can use a website verifier that examines websites for malware.
Finally, when all else fails, if you keep good backups you can recover from anything.