Stay safe with anti-virus protection

Spam’s been on my mind a bit this past week. Email spam in particular.

I’ve been getting quite a few emails – averaging two or three a day – from an address to which I have never sent email. These emails are all undeliverable message reports as this example shows:


Outlook 2007 beta 2 and Cloudmark Desktop, my email spam zapper, do a good job between them of stopping spam like this if it makes it past the spam protection on my email server.

It’s not ordinary spam, though.

Note the little paper clip in the screenshot. That signifies an attachment. And what an attachment – the W32.Mydoom.M@mm email worm that came with each email and which was detected and deleted in each case by the Norton AntiVirus email scan before it could do any mischief.

While the Symantec Security Response Center classifies this virus as a low-risk threat, you really don’t want to get it as removing it is a pain.

A timely reminder that having anti-virus protection on your computer is the most important software installation right after the operating system and firewall.

I use Symantec’s Norton Internet Security 2006 (in spite of a rant earlier this year, it does its job well) on my main desktop PC with Grisoft’s AVG Free on my travelling laptop.

On both PCs, I follow this simple guide:

  1. Always keep virus detection signatures up to date. Easy to do when you configure your anti-virus software to do this automatically. Mine do it daily.
  2. Check for program updates. Getting the latest virus definitions is critical, but you also need to make sure the anti-virus software itself is always up-to-date.
  3. Ensure on-the-fly email scanning is enabled. If your anti-virus software supports this feature (most do), every email you receive will automatically be scanned for threats. That’s what happened in my W32.Mydoom.M@mm experience.
  4. Be especially cautious in opening emails or attachments from people you don’t know, no matter how compelling such emails might appear. If you use Outlook, make sure the attachment protection feature is enabled (which blocks certain file types in emails, and which you can customize).
  5. For complete peace of mind, manually scan every attachment. I don’t always do this myself, especially with attachments from colleagues or friends. But the safest route is to do it as colleagues and friends may unwittingly be sending out virus-infected email, especially if their PCs become infected with something like the W32.Mydoom.M@mm email worm.
  6. Be better safe than sorry. If you have any doubts about an attachment, no matter who the email is from, don’t open it – stick it in email quarantine for closer examination. If it does contain a virus, tell your anti-virus software vendor.
  7. Run a complete system scan at least once a week. Most anti-virus software lets you schedule automatic scans. Depending on your system, a full scan can take an hour or longer. An ideal overnight activity while you sleep.

PC World magazine has a good review of different anti-virus packages.

Self help to stay safe.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Michel

    Personally I use spamfighter to keep those @#!$@ out of my inbox. Works perfect and (like yours!) is a reasonably cheap way. I’ve used spamfilter from mcafee and norton before but they didn’t do the trick for me. Norton even deleted mail without even notifying me.

  2. neville

    Michel, I hear mixed views about Norton. I’ve even whinged about it myself. But on balance, I find it does its job. Same for AVG Free.

  3. neville

    If you have a WordPress blog, Richard, there are a couple of very good plugins that specifically combat trackback spam. Pretty effectively, too.

    You have a TypePad blog, though. I’m sure there are add-ins for TypePad that address this.

  4. Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with "sketch")

    You mean you use Norton and your computer actually runs? I got a call from a new client recently, along the lines of “My computer is so slow I can hardly use it, and it’s only a year old.” The problem? Not viruses, spyware, or adware. Just a bad case of Norton.

    The recommendation from is that if Norton comes with your new machine, use it for the initial period it’s good for. When it comes time to renew–ditch it. It will be nothing but trouble from then on.

  5. Michel

    @Sallie: Same problem here. When Norton starts to think, so have a cup of coffee. I must say that the earlier version use a lot less memory then the current 2006 version. The best version so far for me was 2004.

  6. neville

    I’ve been using Norton since about 2002, Sallie (actually, further back than that, to different incarnations in DOS days). Apart from the little issue I had with NAV 2006 in Jan, I’m ok with the product. It works and does its job well as my experience today attests.

    Michel, I agree with you that the 2004 version is the best one. From a computer resources point of view.

    The only thing I do wince at is the annual subscription cost. The primary reason I switched from NAV on my laptop to AVG Free was simply that I didn’t want to cough up over $50 on a machine I don’t use that often but still need to protect. I’d heard reasonable things about AVG so went for that. So far so good.

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