We left off with some basic rules you can follow to protect your computer. But what happens when you do everything right and computer bug sneaks past your prudent precautions? The answer, of course, is more programs. The military has several defensive weapons to ward off sea, land, air, and yes–space borne attacks, just as you need to have multiple programs to help defend against attacks coming from the Internet, email, and wireless connections.
You need protection against email attachments, phishing links, bots, hidden Visual Basic scripts, malware, viruses, worms, macro viruses, boot sector viruses, master boot record viruses, Trojan Horses, polymorphic viruses…It’s enough to make you want to toss out the tech and go back to mailing in your manuscripts.
So just what should you buy? Fortunately there are software suites you can purchase that will protect your computer from the onslaught. Most likely you’ve heard of Norton and McAfee. How about Trend Micro and AVG?
All four of these software vendors offer a variety of protection products and each has an all-inclusive package. But do you really need everything? If you don’t use your computer to shop online or do banking and are not storing any account information, then you may not need identity protection. If you don’t have children, how important is the parental control and Internet monitoring features to you?
Most authors I know are budget conscious and only spend what the need to. Don’t let the plethora of program choices overwhelm you. Before you purchase any software, write down exactly what your computer is used for. I suggest putting a legal pad or composition notebook next to your keyboard and log your computer usage for a week to ten days. This amount of time should allow you to capture all of your tasks. Once you have this information then you can research product offerings and buy only the protection suited to your needs.
If you only use your computer for writing and submitting drafts, social networking, and occasional web surfing, then you may only need to purchase basic virus protection and a firewall. If you live on your computer and your entire financial, social, and professional life is stored on your hard drive, then you may need to buy the all-inclusive suite. If you have a laptop that you connect to various networks while you’re moving around town, you’ll need to have a good software firewall. (Soapbox Alert) Never, under any circumstances, connect your laptop to a publicly accessible network–this includes hotels, coffee shops, libraries, restaurants, and even the wireless at your friend’s house–without having an active firewall running. It only takes seconds to infect your computer and it is far more inconvenient to have to reload everything than it is to not connect. (End Soapbox Alert)
A couple of cool things. Trend Micro offers a web-based scanner called HouseCall. It downloads a little app and then scans your PC. This can be very handy if you think you have a virus, but your antivirus software doesn’t find anything. If two complete computer scans, by two different software companies, don’t find anything, chances are you’re not infected. This handy tool gives you a sanity check. AVG offers a free version for basic file protection. Be sure to read the license agreement for any free software. Most free software is for home and nonprofit use only. So if you use your computer as a tool to write for profit, then you may not qualify for the free license and will have to pay. For software developers the software license is akin to a copyright. They expect to get paid for what the write, just like we do.
Another source of antivirus software is your Internet provider. It’s in their best interest to keep infected computers off their networks. Infected computers can generate a great deal of network traffic and impact overall performance. To keep from having cranky customers they have taken a preventative approach. You can check your provider’s Internet Services page or call their customer service and ask.
A note about pricing. This is not the type of software you buy once and never pay for again. Unfortunately new threats are being cranked out every day and you’ll need to have an updated antivirus database to defend against them. When you buy the software, you typically get updates for one year. Meaning in twelve months you’ll have to buy a renewal agreement (usually less than the cost of the software) in order to continue receiving updates. Updates to these databases come out daily and the local copy on your computer needs to be updated at least once every 24 hours.
And warning about performance. You will notice a performance hit when you install antivirus software. Any program is going to require CPU cycles and memory. This is another reason to only purchase and install what you need. Be sure to read the system requirements very carefully. The performance hit should not be that great and after a while you’ll no longer notice it. If you install antivirus software and have to wait three seconds after every mouse click then something is wrong. Check your settings and contact your computer guru if necessary.
A properly protected computer will allow for uninterrupted writing day after day. Now stop reading blogs and get back to that work in progress.