Protecting Computers from Viruses

The threat from malicious code is a very real concern. We need to take the steps to protect our systems, and although it might not be possible to eliminate the threat, it is possible to significantly reduce the threat.

One of the primary tools used in the fight against malicious software is antivirus software. Antivirus software is available from a number of companies, and each offers similar features and capabilities. The following is a list of the common features and characteristics of antivirus software.

  • Real-time protection An installed antivirus program should continuously monitor the system looking for viruses. If a program is downloaded, an application opened, or a suspicious email received, the real-time virus monitor will detect and remove the threat. The virus application will sit in the background and will be largely unnoticed by the user.

  • Virus scanning An antivirus program must be capable of scanning selected drives and disk either locally or remotely. Scans can either be run manually, or they can be scheduled to run at a particular time.

  • Scheduling It is a best practice to schedule virus scanning to occur automatically at a predetermined time. In a network environment, this would typically occur off hours when the overhead of the scanning process won't impact users.

  • Live updates New viruses and malicious software are released with alarming frequency. It is recommended that the antivirus software be configured to receive virus updates regularly.

  • Email vetting Emails represent one of the primary sources for virus delivery. It is essential to use antivirus software that provides email scanning for both inbound and outbound email.

  • Centralized management If used in a network environment, it is a good idea to use software that supports centralized management of the virus program from the server. Virus updates and configurations only need to be made on the server and not on each individual client station.

Software is only part of the solution in a proactive virus solution. A complete virus protection strategy requires many aspects to help limit the risk of viruses and includes the following:

  • Develop in-house policies and rules In a corporate environment or even a small office, it is important to establish what information can be placed onto a system. For example, should users be able to download programs from the Internet? Can users bring in their own floppy disks or other storage media?

  • Monitoring virus threats With new viruses coming out all the time, it is important to check to see if new viruses have been released and what they are designed to do.

  • Educate users One of the keys to a complete antivirus solution is to train users in virus prevention and recognition techniques. If users know what they are looking for, it can prevent a virus from entering the system or the network.

  • Back up copies of important documents It should be mentioned that no solution is absolute and care should be taken to ensure that the data is backed up. In the event of a malicious attack, redundant information is available in a secure location.

  • Automate virus scanning and updates Today's antivirus software can be configured to scan and update itself automatically. Because such tasks can be forgotten and overlooked, it is recommended to have these processes scheduled to run at predetermined times.

  • Email vetting Email is one of the commonly used virus delivery mechanisms. Antivirus software can be used to check inbound and outbound emails for virus activity.