There are over 70,000 viruses out there in cyberspace just waiting to infect your computer. And 200 new viruses are invented every month. It only takes one virus to render your computer useless. You have an anti-virus program. Are you protected? Maybe and maybe not. If you aren't updating the program on a regular basis, you could still be in trouble. Please read on.
No, the above is not a virus, but it would be just this easy for someone to place a virus on your system if you are not protected.
Let me start off with a story. I recently received E-Mail from a couple who said they purchased McAfee virus scan several years ago. They had version 2.0.5 and wanted my advice on what to do. Should they upgrade what they had or should they just buy a new version. I recommended that they buy a new version since McAfee has gone through several revisions since they bought theirs and the cost is not all that great. They took my advice and bought the latest version of McAfee and installed it on their computer. McAfee immediately detected a virus on their system and told them it couldn't remove the virus without deleting the file. They agreed. Another infected file was detected and removed. And then another. Before too long, they realized they were in big trouble and contacted me again. Because they already had a virus on their system and it had spread throughout the system, there wasn't much I could do remotely so I recommended they shut their computer down and call a local computer person to come disinfect their computer and get them back up and running.
Now, the cost of the McAfee virus scan is $49.95 as I write this. The cost of having someone come out and disinfect a computer could be several hundred dollars. Need I say more? Well, yes, I suppose I should say a few more words.
Some people feel their computer will never be infected by a virus. I'm not sure how they come to this conclusion. Perhaps they never get sick themselves. They never have a cold and they don't get their flu shots each year. I don't know, but if their computer ever comes in contact with another computer, they are inviting a virus to infect it. By contact, I mean in any fashion. Perhaps your friend gives you a diskette and suggests you try a piece of software. That software could be infected and infect your computer. Or perhaps you go down to the local computer store and buy the latest software for your computer. It very well could be infected with a virus and infect your computer when you install it. Or perhaps you enjoy getting on the Internet and looking around. There are a lot of very nice things on the Internet - viruses included. Just by browsing the Internet, your computer could become infected with a virus. If you download anything to your computer, there is an even better chance that you could catch something. Even if you don't intentionally download anything, files are being transferred to your computer simply by the way you connect to the Internet, and these files could contain a virus. In short, not having a virus scan program on your computer is like having unprotected sex - you're asking for trouble.
Okay. So I've convinced you that you need to protect your computer, and you go to the computer store and buy a virus scan program (McAfee is just one of several programs that will protect your computer). You're done, right? Well, you've taken the first step. As I said earlier, in addition to there being over 70,000 viruses out there today there are some 200 new viruses invented every month, and the software you bought last month will not protect you against the new viruses that were invented this month. It can't because when they wrote that program they didn't know about the new viruses. Most virus scan programs today come with the ability to update what is called the signature file which identifies the viruses and removes them. These updates are free in most cases if you know how to get them. The key is that you need to make an effort to keep your virus scan software up to date. If nothing else, you should contact the company you bought your virus scan software from and ask them if there are any updates.
I am most familiar with the Norton virus scan program. I have been a registered user of it for many years. It only costs you about $40.00 to get a registered version and the peace of mind you get with it is well worth the investment. There's a catch though - the chicken or the egg story. If you already have a virus on your system, the virus scan software may not be able to help you. If you don't have a virus, why do you need a virus scan program? Well, my recommendation is that you get yourself a virus scan program. If you aren't already infected, you'll have the peace of mind knowing that you won't catch anything in the future. If you discover that you have a virus, you then need to take steps to disinfect your system and do it as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the more damage the virus can cause. And once you're protected, don't forget to keep it up to date. You need to get the latest software as well as the latest signature file. Both are important.
One final word. THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES! Since there are some 200 new viruses invented every month, you can have all the protection in the world and still catch a virus. This is unfortunate, but a fact of life. The key is to protect yourself as best you can and hope that you don't catch one of those new viruses before they come out with an update to detect it.
Last Revised: 03/13/2005
The PC Help Desk