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McAfee, Inc

Is My Computer Infected?  ~ The Warning Signs!

Many times my customers have mistaken virus infection for computer malfunction. Although in some ways an infected computer is malfunctioning, there are a few differences to bear in mind.

  • A virus is malicious ~ A malfunctioning PC is not.
  • A virus may try and steal your identity, passwords and account info.
  • A virus may use your computer to launch DOS (denial of service) attacks against remote locations.
  • A virus could open a back door into your computer so your data will be laid bare to any intruder.
  • A virus could infect your other files and programs, and in some instances ruining them.
  • A virus could cause permanent loss of your sensitive and important data.
  • A virus could use you PC without your knowledge to spread itself to others.
  • A virus not only puts you at risk, but others with whom you communicate.

If all that sounds pretty scary, it is!
However, the good news is that if you take the time to recognize an infected PC and if you follow a few simple rules and precautions the damage an infected machine can cause is minimal.

First lets take a look at some of the warning signs associated with computer viral infection.

  • Excessive HDD activity: Does the red HDD access light stay on for unusually long periods of time, especially when the machine should be idol and you are not working on it? If so, this could be a sign of a virus infection.
  • Check you internet connection: Is there communication activity going on when there should not be? In other words is you machine talking to the internet when you are not working on it?
  • Strange behaviors of familiar programs: Most of us use our web browser, word processor, spread sheet or other applications often enough to have a feel for how they act normally. Did one of them suddenly start to exhibit strange behavior? Long hanging pauses? Unasked for help windows or pages? Excessive popup windows, or unexplained triggered windows warnings? If you answered yes to any of these your PC may be infected.
  • Changes in your web settings: Has you home page mysteriously changed? What about your favorite search page, or any default pages such as the familiar MS Search when you press the search button? If you experience any of these strange behaviors your browser, internet connection, or both may have been compromised and your PC may be infected.

Fear not however, because things usually aren't as bad as they sound. These days most virus are looking to gather or disseminate information, therefore, while they do still exist, destructive virus are few and far between.

If you suspect your PC is infected your first concern should be to secure your computer from further damage or invasion. Here are some simple first steps in there preferable order.

  • Unplug the network cable from your computer. Your first concern should always be to close off any possibility that your identity or other data are being leaked to the internet.
  • It you are experienced in virus removal you ar probably not reading this far, but if you are not, CALL AN EXPERIENCED COMPUTER TECHNICIAN right away.
  • Depending on the symptoms the technician may or may not have you turn off your computer.
  • DO NOT run any other programs. Running other programs may cause them to become infected. In some instances shutting off your computer can allow the virus to entrench itself even deeper into your system and that is why sometimes you are better just unplugging the network cable and putting in a call for help.

So what is the best solution?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Install a good virus checker and keep it updated often, BEFORE your PC gets infected! I personally suggest one which has auto-update and is from a reputable company such as F-Secure, Panda, Norton, or McAfee.

Install a personal firewall, one that will allow you to choose which programs can communicate out of your PC (BOTH DIRECTIONS). Sometimes the first warning of an infection might be an unusual program triggering a warning on your firewall. But, be sure you understand its use and are comfortable with its procedures. While most try to be as user friendly as possible you can still accidentally shut your self off from the internet or render applications that you want to use from working if you instruct your firewall incorrectly. Read about and understand your firewall.

Pay attention to what you are clicking on. The internet is a great resource but it is not a benign nor safe one. There are more predators on the internet than anywhere else in the world. They lie in wait to rob, rape and destroy you. They prey on innocent victims and are rarely caught and brought to justice.Your best protection is in avoiding the traps and pitfalls in the first place, and in upcoming articles I will help you understand how you can avoid those also.

Don't browse recklessly. There are sites out here that can install a virus to your machine simply by visiting it. No, its not just a rumor it's for real and you need to take care when going to new sites, and sometimes even old ones which may become infected. Try and follow a simple rule of thumb, know why you are going to that site, have good reason for doing so. Avoid the so-called adult and illegal sites, they fester with traps waiting for unsuspecting victims. Believe me when I tell you that over the years I have made a nice supplement to my income just repairing the damage that results from visiting malicious websites and in 90% of those cases it was an adult site that started things off.
Sorry to you legitimate adult sites, but you are actually a very VERY small minority.

I hope these tips and insight will help you avoid the pitfalls of virus infection and wish you many years of safe surfing.



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