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[ The PC Guide | System Care Guide | Data Loss and Virus Prevention | Virus Detection and Protection | Virus Infection Mechanisms and Prevention ]

Infection Via the Internet

Virus infection via files downloaded from the Internet is probably the fastest growing area of infection, paralleling the fast growth of Internet use itself. More and more companies are making software available over the Net, and for the mostpart getting a new driver or a software patch from reputable companies is safe, as long as you are sure that you are getting the file from an official source. However, the Net is also filled with "unofficial" software, pirated programs, and low-budget software from questionable sources, that may be intentionally or unintentionally infected with viruses.

Here, as in other places, you need to let common sense be your guide. The following precautions will be of assistance:

  • Obtain Software From Reputable Sources: Downloading a service pack for Windows NT from Microsoft's web site is a very different proposition from downloading a freeware disk utility you've never heard of before from "Mack's Hacks and Cracks", some web site you read about on a USEnet newsgroup. There are many reputable web sites that distribute excellent quality shareware and freeware software, and almost all of it is virus-free, but you still need to be more diligent about files obtained from higher-risk sources.

Warning: There are also sources of pirated software on the Internet, if you know where to look for them. Using these "services", aside from being of questionable character and usually illegal, depending on where you live, is also dangerous to your PC. These illicit sources of programs have a much higher incidence of viruses than legally-obtained software.

  • Scan, Scan, and Scan Some More: No downloaded executable files are ever run on my PC without first being scanned with an antivirus program. This is the only way to be (reasonably) sure that what you have obtained is safe to use.
  • Beware of Automatic Downloads: Be careful when using programs that download and run update patches and programs automatically. While in most cases these will not be a problem, having downloaded software run automatically without virus checking exposes you to potential problems in my opinion.

Next: Infection Through Software Installation

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