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If you read e-mail, download files, use floppies, zip disks, or CD's, or share files over a network you are susceptible to viruses. You may have anti-virus software or practice safe computing. But you are either trusting that someone else has update your virus definitions or that your 'trusted' friends are practicing safe computing.

Anti-virus software of some sort is almost a necessity for everyone that has access to the internet or shares files. Viruses come in all types, floppy/zip disk infections, Word and Excel macros, and e-mail that says its 'a really cool program, try it' which may or may not actually do something you can see while it infects your system. Lots of viruses are written just to spread themselves around, while others do annoying things, some steal your passwords and send the virus to everyone on your buddy list. Many viruses have bugs in them, i.e. they don't work right and can crash or corrupt your computer. Remember, the author of the virus isn't going to test it on his/her computer.

The people that are the most susceptible to viruses are users of Word, Excel, Outlook, and AOL. Now you may say, 'Hey, that's just about everybody' and you would be mostly correct. These programs are the easiest to write viruses for and since just about everybody has them, the virus can infect just about everybody. Even if you don't use these programs you are still susceptible to viruses. Enough about scaring you, and on to how to protect yourself, your computer, and your documents, passwords, and hard work.

Most people have either McAfee or Norton anti-virus software if they have anything at all. McAfee can be downloaded at http://www.mcafee.com. If you already have McAfee, you can tell because one of the icons in the lower right of your screen will say 'McAfee' or 'VShield', then go to the Start->Programs->McAfee. One of the programs in that list will bring up a window and give you the ability to update it. You will need to be on the internet to update. If you can't update, or don't find McAfee, download the new version from their website above. Or, you can purchase Norton Anti-virus from our store!

Just because you have anti-virus protection does not mean you are now 'safe'. You must keep it up-to-date. Norton will give you messages if you haven't been updating it. To update either package, log on to the internet, load the software and click the update button and follow the steps. Update your software about every two weeks, most software is updated weekly, so don't think this is just paranoia. If you think you downloaded a virus but nothing was detected, update your software and scan your hard drive. Better safe than sorry, since that thesis or lab report will be much more frustrating the second time through. Also, remember to scan your hard disk about once a month to catch any new fangled virus that got through before could update your software against it. Scanning your hard drive can take a while and most software has a scheduler of some sort, it is probably already set, so just check its enabled and let it run.