Learn all about computer viruses and how to protect yourself from their effects
Some of the hallmarks of For Dummies books are readability and humor. For Dummies books are enjoyable to write, because I get to inject some of my wit right into the text.
Some of my humor ended up on the cutting room floor, either because it was “over the top” or because some fell victim to a last minute cutting job we had to do to save space.
My editor gets credit for some of these – either in their entirety, or he improved them to make them clearer (or funnier).
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Now if you read carefully and take my advice to heart, you’ll be much safer in the long run. (And don’t forget to eat your vegetables.)
At long last, Microsoft had taken the kernel (insides) of Windows NT(tm) and grafted on the Windows 98 user interface (the stuff that you see on-screen when you use it), and after exhausting the world’s supply of duct tape and baling wire, made it work.
Having no security patches is almost as bad as having no antivirus software: You’re up the creek with a sitting duck.
Do you often get the Blue Screen of Death(tm)?
I argue that this is a Very Good Thing(tm).
It’s like drinking unboiled water from a polluted river — think Montezuma’s Revenge here.
Nobody’s exempt from human error (well, maybe chimpanzees).
This is because this book is like the annoying magazines that you see in U.S. grocery store checkout lines. They have enticing messages and stories on the cover that make you want to read more (like all of those amazing sex secrets), but you can’t find the article in the table of contents! This book is like that – you won’t have enough time to find what you’re looking for until you take this book home. And you never know – maybe I’ve tossed in a sex secret or two. After all, viruses and sex seem to go together, both in the real world as well as in the Internet.
I disagree with all statements that say all (well, most of them anyway).
Some viruses even try to turn system into a modern-day Typhoid Mary, spreading infection to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands, of other computer users on the Internet. Baaaad Karma.
For instance, turn on your computer first thing in the morning, and run the virus scan while you’re off taking a shower, eating a meal, meeting with other people, practicing the accordion, or whatever. Or run the scan at some other time when the computer is on but you’re not using it for anything but the scan. (Siesta, anyone?)
…even these are harmful, because they upset their computers’ feng shui.
And if you purchase these books through my Web site (listed in the Introduction), then I’ll get tiny commissions that will permit me to continue buying day-old bread and to make ends meet until they ask me to write a second edition of this book. Top that, Charles Dickens.
It’s a classic good guys-versus-bad-guys situation online — the good guys fight the bad guys and their hats don’t even fall off!
When an online scanning tool finds a virus, could easily say something like, “Saaaay, I’ve found a virus here, but you’ll have to buy our antivirus product at full price in order to fix it.” Ka-ching!
What do I do now? (Scream? Use bad language? Pitch my computer and move to a cave?)
Certainly you’ve been to one of those Web sites that plasters those annoying pop-up ads all over your screen, trying to sell you life insurance, travel helps, online dating, sex toys, or (yeah, right) pop-up blockers. Well, maybe the sex toys are okay, especially the <censored by copy editor> . Oops.
People remember their firsts — the first time driving a car, first kiss, first surgery, first computer virus. (Well, okay, some firsts are better than others — but most are memorable.)
Note: I wanted to mention something else in the above text, but I knew that it would be cut anyway, and thought it might even irritate the editorial staff. (Sigh) Any contact with the infected file is limited for safety’s sake. (Nope, there are no visiting hours.)
Encrypted viruses (What a Concept)
Many antivirus programs can also update their engines. Sorry, no chrome exhaust pipes or higher gas mileage here — the engine is the part of the program that actually performs a specific, required task (in this case, the detection engine detecting viruses).
If I was more of a blarney artist, I would attempt to impress you (or bore you) with statistics that would tell you precisely how often to update your virus-signature files.
(Sinister music begins to play; the camera zooms in…)
Beware of geeks bearing gifts… Don’t click a gift horse with a mouse.
And you thought there were no “Peeping Toms” on the Internet? Ha!
…the virus writers would love you, but trust me, they won’t respect you in the morning.
The scan(s) can take a very long time, depending upon how fast your computer is and how large the hard drive may be. Scans can easily take more than an hour or two. While you’re waiting, I suggest you curl up with one of your other favorite Dummies books, such as Wine, Sex, Pregnancy, or Baby Names – any or all as appropriate (personally I think this would make a great bundled set).
The Grim Data-Reaper visits everyone now and then, and you should be prepared.
I’m sure that I sound like your mother when I tell you to surf wisely. As soon as you start to venture off the Internet’s main street into the dimly-lit back alleys, especially in the red-light district, you’ll find a different class of Web-site operator who resorts to dirty tricks like attempting to hijack your browser’s configuration settings or burying you in pop-up windows that won’t go away until you reboot.
Unless you do have to visit a potpourri of Web sites for (ahem) “research” purposes…
…get hold of Fighting Spam For Dummies. (John and Margaret, you owe me one.) Note: John Levine and Margaret Levine-Young are the authors of Fighting Spam For Dummies.
Virginia, the hackers want your bank account and other online passwords.
Yes, Virginia, there really are people in the world who want to hurt other people and their property. But you knew that. (Note: I don’t know who Virginia is. My editor put these in.)
Practicing Safe Hex
Working on good computer hygiene
Wanna have some fun? Get a couple of cyber-philosophers in a room and watch them argue this one for a couple of hours.
Exposing ignorance as a source of cyber-hooey
But if you do get a virus and see sparks or flames shooting out of your computer or keyboard, please catch it on video and send it to me.
Some of your friends might even begin to fear you.
Suppose, for example, you have a friend named Jane (not her real name).