When I take her to the cinema, sometimes my four year old has to ask “Daddy is that a good guy or a bad guy?” Usually it’s an easy question to answer. Not so when it comes to the internet. It’s infected. Sort of.
Start talking about downloading programs from the web and invariably someone will warn about some oddly named computer virus. The most recent is called “AOL for free”, and is delivered to your PC by way of unsolicited e-mail. The buzz on the net is to run for the hills when you see “AOL for free” in the subject line. Doom and destruction will follow if you open that mail. The good news is that so far, that particular bug is still a rumor.
By far, rumors of bugs out number the little strings of computer code that actually do infect computers. The genuine bad guys of the day have names like Green Stripe, Yesmile.5504, Boza and Hare. The odds of you winning the Virginia lottery are probably better than the chance of getting a real computer virus off the net if you use just a small precaution. Install an anti-virus program!
The most popular is called “Norton”, but there are dozens to choose from. Most anti-virus software use a combination of methods to spot the bad guys before they enter your hard drive and wreak havoc. Many virus codes have similar patterns that are relatively easy to check for. The other “must-do” precaution is to have an emergency boot disk. This is a write-protected copy of your system or start-up disk that will allow you to restart your computer free of any infections.
After installing the protective software feel free to kick around sample programs and games widely available on the internet. Before any virus can jump aboard bells will sound and warnings will flash. And if you’re still worried about bugs check in with the J & A Virus Information site at http://www.bocklabs.wisc.edu/~janda/. It’s everything you want to know about the bad guys. Finally, the solid good guy in this electron western is you. Back-up anything important. Always. White ten gallon hat optional.