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Dan Hobart

through the net’, or if you’re starting to see suspicious behaviour.

But I cannot stress enough the importance of awareness. Too often I see someone’s machine crippled with malware which had an up-to-date anti-virus solution installed and running. The user is baffled as to why the anti-virus product didn’t do its job. The answer in most cases is that the user probably clicked ‘Yes’ or ‘Okay’ to a question they didn’t fully understand, and this allowed the malware to install itself and undermine the anti- virus solution.

It’s also quite possible to become overwhelmed with prompts and lose track of which are from your anti-virus product and which are from the malware site trying to sell you a bogus solution!


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That said, there are precautions you can take to mitigate the risk. Ensure your software is up-to-date. Windows, Office, Java, Adobe Flash – these all contain automatic update features which are enabled by default. Allow them to do their work. Use the latest version of your preferred web browser, and ensure it is kept up to date. Firefox is still arguably less prone to exploits than Internet Explorer, and will auto-update itself whenever a new revision appears. Windows 7 is safer than Windows XP and in most cases I’ve encountered, any malware infections are sandboxed within the user’s profile – all other profiles are unaffected, and generating a new, clean profile for the user is a simple matter.


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Google will try and warn you about dangerous websites – pay attention to those warnings. Be wary of installing additional software on a whim. Each piece of software on your machine should have a specific purpose, be from a reputable developer and downloaded from an official location. Beware the multitude of cute little apps which come with browser toolbars which in turn can open vulnerabilities in your browser and ultimately lead to a full-blown infection and you cursing the ineffectiveness of your AV solution. The simpler your machine in terms of software, the lower your risk of infection. If your computer asks you a question – do not answer until you understand the ramifications. Either do a Google search or consult an IT professional. A simple search could save you hours of grief and/or expensive support costs. Finally, and most importantly - backup your data, and do so regularly. There are now numerous online backup solutions which once configured, keep your data safe with no further action required. Then if the worst comes to the worst and a complete reinstall is necessary, at least your data is safe. Better that the inconvenience of downtine is not accompanied by the heartache of data loss.

Dan Hobart is an IT consultant based in the Barbican. He has 12 years experience in implementing, managing and supporting Windows-based networks. - dan


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