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Protecting Against Viruses and Other Threats

Computer viruses are a fact and an intrinsic part of the computing experience. It is extremely likely you have antivirus software installed on your computer, and possibly even software that protects against adware and spyware. If you do not, you should. However, installing this software, accepting the defaults during installation, and expecting the application(s) to protect you against anything and everything that comes your way is no longer a reality. These days, you need to have at least a basic understanding of viruses and other threats, including what types of viruses exist, how they work, and what you can do to help protect your computer, data, and personal information from harm. While you can obtain a virus manually by downloading something from an unscrupulous Web site or installing a malicious freeware or shareware program, most viruses are passed from one computer to another automatically through applications like Outlook. In fact, the fastest spreading and most destructive viruses travel through e-mail in the form of attachments.

Macros you use in Excel or Access can also contain viruses. Downloading a macro or "borrowing" one from a colleague is sometimes the source of the virus, but more often than not, they arrive in e-mail attachments. Viruses can attack through Office applications if the proper security updates have not been downloaded and installed. It is therefore very important to also keep Microsoft Office protected, just as you would your computer.

Other threats exist though. You need to take personal precautions for keeping your data safe. You should sign up for security bulletins, configure high-security passwords, and do whatever else you can to thwart unauthorized access to your computer, including being vigilant about what you download and install from the Internet.