Computer viruses can ruin lives in as little as 15 seconds. They are difficult to avoid and are constantly changing and evolving. Many of them can be encrypted within e-mails and even instant messages sent between friends. The damage can occur before the virus is even detected.
It is the ultimate nightmare scenario for those who are not technologically inclined. Even for Hector Rodriguez, an IT specialist at Spackle IT Services, LLC in Philadelphia, viruses can present a lot of challenges.
“Hackers can change a single keystroke and develop entirely new viruses every single day. Then you have viruses that burrow deep into the hard drive and can hide in various programs. It is very rare that I find myself working with the same viruses,” Rodigruez said.
In this age of identity theft and embezzlement, it is critical to have some type of anti-virus software. Without programs like Norton, Symantec or McAfee, the chances of your PC becoming infected are nearly tripled to that of those with these monitoring programs.
“Anti-virus software is crucial because not all viruses have noticeable symptoms. Your computer might not lose speed or become overloaded with adware and pop-ups, some of them will just begin logging keystrokes and storing personal information,” Rodriguez said.
Amanda Murphy, recent Cabrini graduate, said she had dealt with a virus early in her junior year. “This screen popped up that said something like, ‘Attention: you are currently logged in from two locations.’I didn’t think much of it at first, like maybe I had left something open on a friend’s computer. But when I minimized my document, I saw different applications becoming highlighted and I wasn’t moving the mouse.”
After speaking to a friend at ITR, Murphy was informed that a hacker had managed to gain access to her files and documents and that she needed to change all of her passwords, keep a close eye on her finances and immediately report any discrepancies to a fraud specialist at her bank. “It was scary, and you kind of feel violated, like when someone is reading over your shoulder. I’m much more careful these days with the Web sites I visit and the files I download. I’m not interested in sharing my computer with someone else,” Murphy said.
The best advice for people trying to avoid computer viruses is pretty simple to remember; don’t click on questionable links and don’t download or access files from unknown sources. Operate under the assumption that these downloads and Web sites will cause your computer harm.
“Download/install updates regularly, but remember that having too many anti-virus programs will be counterproductive and as they may begin to view each other as threats. Back up all your data in case of infection or malfunction. And most importantly, choose strong passwords. They should contain a mixture of lowercase and capital letters, numbers and even special characters,” Rodriguez said.