Viruses are one of the occupational hazards of using a computer, especially spending time on the Internet. Hackers and malware authors spend lots of time producing software whose sole intent is to work its way into your computer system and steal information, corrupt data, or hand control of your PC over to a third party. Installing an anti-virus suite may be time consuming, cost money, and in some cases it may affect your computer’s performance, but without one your computer lacks key defenses against infection.
It’s certainly true that applying some common sense to your activities online can greatly reduce your risk of virus infection. Refusing to open email attachments, staying off file-sharing networks, and only downloading software from reputable sources will protect you from three of the most prevalent vectors of malware intrusion on the Internet. However, there are ways in which malware can infect your system without your knowledge. No computer is immune, and an anti-virus program can help defend against attacks.
One way in which many viruses and malware programs spread is by infecting websites. Websites use scripting languages to display data and graphics and perform other tasks. These scripting languages sometimes have exploits that hackers can use to plant malware in the computers of those who browse the sites. An anti-virus program with a Web shield can detect these script attacks, preventing the website from displaying and blocking the malicious software from your PC. Without an anti-virus program, you may discover the infection only after it damages your data.
Security flaws in operating systems and other programs represent another potential source of infection. For instance, if your firewall is misconfigured, it may be vulnerable to someone sending malformed packets of data, allowing them to run commands on your system without your knowledge and plant malware. Web browsers and other programs that interact with the Internet also represent potential security threats, and while manufacturers regularly release software patches to close these security holes, an anti-virus program serves as a solid backup to prevent this type of infection.Friends, Family and Coworkers
While you may be able to lessen your chances of infection by practicing good computer security discipline, you can’t always assume the same of everyone around you. If someone you know acquires a virus infection, he may unwittingly pass that on to you by sharing files, connecting to your home network, or sending you an email. Without an anti-virus program, you remain vulnerable to this type of social infection.
Safely computing without anti-virus protection requires caution, technical savvy, accepting the risks and accepting the consequences if you make a mistake. Logging into Windows as a restricted, non-administrator account may enable your computer to prevent malware from destroying vital system files. Turning off scripting in your Web browser can prevent Web-based malware from installing, but it will also break any website that uses scripts to display content. Without anti-virus, downloading any files from the Internet or opening email attachments represents a serious risk. You’ll also need to keep all your software patched and up to date to reduce application-based attacks. Even with these precautions, however, you may still be vulnerable to infection, so back up vital data regularly.
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