Self-Defense: Virus Protection               

If you frequently surf the internet, you are sure to be encountered by a computer virus at one time or another.  It may be introduced via email, within a program you attempt to download, or a website you visit.  The best defense against a virus begins with awareness and ends with prevention.  The purpose of this article is to educate you more about these nasty infections and a few ways they can be easily avoided. 

The Truth about Viruses

Most internet threats including viruses, worms and Trojans spread themselves via email.  A good way to keep these infections away from your computer is to keep your preferred email application current with updates.  Contrary to popular belief, you CANNOT be infected by a virus just by opening or reading an email message.  The hoax claiming that infections spread by opening an email with a virus-indicating subject field is not true.  This misconception has been going around for years and has struck fear in many users.  To put it in more simple terms, a virus cannot free itself from your inbox and infect your computer. 

In order for a computer virus to be effective, some type of explicit action is required on the user's part.  What makes this possible is the fact that many emails contain attachments.  An attachment may be a word document, or an audio or video file.  An attachment may also be a virus in disguise.  By opening the attachment sent with an unsolicited email, you're taking a great risk.  When that document is downloaded to your computer and opened, the payload of that virus is unleashed and immediately looks for ways to spread the infection. 

Protecting Yourself

Keeping email-born viruses from your system is fairly easy.  Since there is no standard method of distinguishing genuine attachments from infected ones, the best advice is to never open those sent in an unsolicited message.  Regardless of how tempting it seems, knowing that your computer and everything on it could be at risk should be enough incentive to fight temptation.  Caution should be practiced even if the attachment is sent from a friend or known source.  Email viruses such as ILOVEYOU and Melissa infect a user's address book and propagates itself in the victim's name.   In this instance, you may want to give the sender a call to make sure the email and it's contents are safe. 

Software is the recommended solution for keeping viruses away from your system and eradicating them as well.  Reliable products from McAfee, Symantec, Kapersky and many other vendors have established reputations for creating some of the best anti-virus software.  These programs include sophisticated scanners that will run a quick and thorough search of your entire system, capable of detecting an array of malicious content from viruses to spyware. 

Viruses pose a great problem to the modern computing environment.  At the same time, exposure to these common threats isn't something you have to deal with.  Your chances of contracting a virus can be greatly reduced by taking a few basic security precautions and locking your computer down with quality software. 

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Identity theft comes in many forms.

A person\92s identity can be 'borrowed' for the purpose of creating fictional credit cards or a person\92s entire identity can be usurped to the point where they can have difficulty proving that they really are who they claim to be.

Up to 18% of identity theft victims take as long as four years to realize that their identity has been stolen.

There are many ways to protect your personal identity and many steps you can take to prevent your identity from being stolen:

*Never give out unnecessary personal information
*Never provide bank details or social security numbers over the Internet
*Always remain aware of who is standing behind you when you type in your personal credit codes at ATM machines and at supermarket checkout swipe machines.