I am often asked which virus scanner I use on my PCs. Typically, people are shocked when I tell them that I do not use one. How can I keep my computer safe with no premium virus scanner?  The answer has more to do with the way I use the computer than anything else. It’s important to know what to avoid and how to tell when things don’t seem right.

Knowing the basics about viruses and where they come from will help keep you safe in the mine field that is computing. For example, no company is going to call you out of the blue and offer to fix your computer remotely.  If you receive an unrequested call from anyone claiming they are from Microsoft (or any other technology company) wherein they inform you that they need access to your computer in order to fix it, this is a scam. Hang up! Do not give them access to your personal information.

Another common scam is when your browser gets hijacked.  In this situation, your browser redirects you to a scam page which will ask you to click on a link that may contain viruses or call a number. Like the direct calling mentioned before, once you call this number, they will claim to be offering a necessary service and ask to gain access to your computer, talking you through the process of how to give this to them. If you are browsing the internet and any page pops up asking you to call for service, it is most likely not legitimate.

You can easily tell if a page is legitimate or not by looking at the URL. Make sure that the page being displayed matches the address you entered. Even legitimate websites can get hacked and redirect you to a virus. More often than not, the fake redirected site will inform you that you need to click to update your browser or flash player. Don’t click anywhere on this page as doing so may give you a virus. Don’t worry though, the solution is usually simple. Close the browser window by clicking the X at the upper right (or the red button at the upper left on a mac). Other times it can be more complicated. The hacked site can lock your computer so that you can not close the window. In this case, force close the window by opening the task manager (ctrl + alt +del). Find your browser and click “end task”(Click here to see how).  If all else fails, as a last resort, hold your power button down until the machine turns off.

Here is an example of a hijacked page. chrome-update-scam-1

Lastly, every once in a while, it’s a good idea to make sure that there are no programs installed on your computer that you did not install.  An easy way to check this is to open the control panel (or application list on a mac) and do a visual check.  Reorganize the list to show you the most recently installed first.  Common virus programs will claim that they are optimizers, virus scanners, and cleaners, (ironic, right?)  Another classic sign that your computer is infected is when these programs load automatically when you first turn your computer on.  They often will claim they are a Microsoft partner. If you have programs like these you should probably take your computer in to a professional to get them removed.

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