Read this article if you are still using IE6 (or even more importantly if you don’t know what I mean by IE6) and don’t want to end up with a smart virus ruining your computer
Recently my computer was infected by a virus. A very smart virus. This virus infected me just because I visited a web page. It was not sent through an email. I did not have to download anything. All I had to have in order to let this virus onto my machine is IE6. My anti-virus software did not stop it and once I was infected my protective software could not get rid of it. The virus then disabled my firewall and windows security settings, contacted a site and began to load my machine with many other viruses and trojan horses. I went from a couple infections to 21, and then rapidly on to 75 before I quickly unplugged the ethernet (internet) cable, and then spent over a week and many other people’s time trying to repair my poor computer.
So how are you, an innocent web user like me, who only visits work related sites or places to buy gifts going to protect yourself from a similar fate?
Step 1. Get rid of IE6. By IE6 I mean Internet Explorer 6. This is the blue “e” located on your desktop or in your start menu that allows you to use the internet when you click on it. If your blue “e” has a gold swoosh across it, then you are using IE7 (whew). Internet Explorer 6 came automatically installed on your machine starting just after the release of Windows XP way back in 2001.
Side Note: 2001 is ancient history in the technology world. Think of it in dog years- multiply 8 by 7 and imagine something your grandparents would have used 56 years ago.
IE6 has some pretty major security holes, especially if your java script is not up to date (we will come back to this one in step 2). Fortunately there are other options! The easiest option is just upgrade to Internet Explorer 7. It is FREE.
Let me repeat that for the 19% of internet users who still used IE6 at the end of 2008. THE UPGRADE TO INTERNET EXPLORER 7 IS FREE. You just have to wait for the download to finish, and then click through the little install prompts that pop up. If the download seems like a bother to you, just take comfort in the fact that you probably won?t have that computer much longer because when you get infested by the motherboard chomping viruses out there, you will have to buy a new machine and you will get Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 8 already installed for you. Problem solved!
Now some of you genuinely can not run IE7 on your computer because you have an operating system that is too old to support it. I know who you are, and you know that you need a new computer anyway, but wouldn?t it be nice to have a chance to back up your data before a rogue program gets you?
Unfortunately, because Internet Explorer 7 is a Microsoft product, that means it immediately becomes the target of hackers across the globe. You can do even better for the security of your computer. Download the internet browser known as Firefox.
This is the safest browser out there. Firefox loads the web pages faster , has lots of neat features , and it is free. After you start the download, come back for the rest of the article, because until you deal with IE6, the battle isn’t over as you are about to see.
Here is the real kicker in my story. I was using Firefox 3 (FF3 for those in the know) at the time I got infected. “What?” You may ask. “I thought you said you were using Internet Explorer 6?” I have Internet Explorer 6 installed on my computer so that I can debug websites. Even though I was not using IE6 at the time, the virus was still able to able to open a small pop-up window in IE6 and use the security hole to access my computer and install the Trojans.
It is absolutely imperative you get rid of IE6. To uninstall it, you may need help, but it will be well worth it. Or upgrade to IE7 even if you don’t plan to use it just so that it deletes IE6 for you. If you can not figure out a way to get rid of Internet Explorer 6, be sure to read Step 2.
Step 2. Make sure your software updates are bleeding edge up to date. Here is what absolutely must have the most recent patches downloaded and added:
Windows XP: Make sure you have service pack 3 installed and all other security updates.
Java Script: This is used by all web browsers to make neat features on websites work among other things. THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT no matter what browser you are using. Make sure you update yours from time to time.
Your Internet Browser: Whether you are using Firefox or Internet Explorer, be sure you let them install updates. Upgrade to the newest versions when they are released. Ahem.
Your Anti-Virus Program: Old viruses mutate, and new viruses are released all the time. Make sure you let your anti-virus program update every couple of weeks or more. That way it knows just what to look for on the horizon. (Let’s hope it is a sunrise and not a sunset.)
Step 3. Interestingly enough, I have placed anti-virus programs at the bottom of this list. The fact is, no anti-virus program can stop or even delete some of the viruses out there, especially if you have security holes on your computer as I painfully discovered. However, they are still very necessary, so I am devoting my next article to knowing about the threats out there and your best software options for dealing with them. In the meantime, make sure your computer is up to date – and don’t open attachments from people you don’t know!