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Combatting computer viruses. (IT Strategies).

For individuals who like to surf the Internet, their chances of catching a virus are about the same as catching a cold this winter, which is pretty good.

Donna Brown, who has 18 years experience in the computer business, has been healing computer illness for seven years through her home-based business P.C. Medic. She presented tips and information at a seminar called Bullet Proofing Your Computer in Thunder Bay, as part of Small Business Week celebrations.

"If you don't have a virus protection program on your computer, I can guarantee you that it will be only a matter of time before you get a virus if you are on the Internet," said Brown.

A computer virus is simply a computer program that spreads by creating copies of itself and attaching the copies to other files. Viruses will reproduce without the user's knowledge or permission. A virus attack can create a number of ailments for a computer. It can cripple programs, wipe out a hard drive and take up all the available memory in the computer.

Computers will present typical symptoms when suffering from a virus. Strange messages will appear on the screen and the machine will start to crash more frequently. Strange unrecognizable files will start appearing and files will start to get larger for no reason. Computers disk space will shrink suddenly without any reason and programs will stop working the way they should.

In addition to the risk of catching a virus, a computer is also susceptible to a wide range of other health problems. A trojan horse is any program that looks useful, but causes damage instead; however, they do not replicate. It is usually spread through e-mail. Worms, unlike most viruses, do not infect other programs, but they infect other computers. A virus hoax is a message that isalmost always sent by e-mail that appears as a chain letter.

If that is not enough to worry about, there are some less serious conditions that your computer can catch, but they are still annoying afflictions, Brown says. Spyware is a program that installs itself onto your computer without your permission and it actually monitors what you do; it actually will send this information back to a person or company.

Brown provided some tips that may help avoid computer virus problems. Most importantly, one should install a virus program and update it weekly, she said. Be sure to back up important data to reduce damage a virus can cause to computer files. Delete any attachment if it is unexpected and always save e-mail attachments to disk and then scan them for viruses. Also, always turn off the preview panel in Outlook Express so that attachments are not opened directly on to your computer.

For those who despice pop-up ads, install a pop-up stopper, she suggested.
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Author:Scarcello, Frank
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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