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I'm sure that a lot of people are very concerned about Internet security. The idea of suffering identity theft due to a simple mistake online is quite frightening. Thankfully, there are a lot of things that you can do to protect yourself from many different viruses, Trojan programs, and malware.
You have to make sure that you're getting trustworthy software, however. A lot of warnings online can be safely ignored, while some of your internal warnings require immediate attention. Here, I'll explore some reasons why you receive messages that your computer may be at risk and finding help if your virus protection is bad or inadequate.
Image Credit: Virus / Wikimedia Commons
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Your Computer May Be at Risk - Banner Ads
Banner ads are probably the most straightforward part of this issue. Any experienced Internet user has probably seen these ads a few hundred times. There's a big X and it tries to tell you that your computer may be at risk and your virus protection is bad. These are not real concerns. They try to make it look like your system or the trusted website is issuing the warning.
Their plan is quite simple actually. They want you to click on the ad to further "investigate" the problem. Next they have you download a virus scanner that is just a creative piece of spyware. The next thing you know, your system will actually be compromised with viruses, keyloggers, and popups. In general, this spyware is also some of the toughest to remove. Since you agreed to download it, it will have full access to the system and probably root itself in deep.
To be safe, don't listen to anything that isn't coming directly from your computer. Anything online is probably just an ad that's taking a creative approach to infecting your computer.
On that note, always be careful about using an online scanner or downloading virus protection software. There are some fake programs out there that will really mess up your system, so make sure to search a bit before you trust any of them.
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Your Computer May Be at Risk - Windows
The other possible message is legitimate and comes directly from Windows. This should be a little popup message in the bottom right corner along with a little red shield. As much as windows can sometimes be paranoid, it is usually good at pointing out issues with your system. Just click on the red shield to pull up the reasons for the warning. Click on the image to the left to see a larger image of a Windows warning.
One red flag when you click on the red shield may be that your system can't find a firewall or an antivirus program. The windows firewall message isn't terrible and you can correct this problem by turning the firewall on to make the message disappear. Just about any antivirus program will work as well. If you're looking for a suggestion for good antivirus software, try AVG, a well established antivirus program.
Another fairly simple issue is that you have windows updates waiting for you to install. Despite sometimes being annoying, windows updates are often crucial for fixing little loopholes and exploits in the system. Updating your windows operating system frequently is a good way to stay protected, so I suggest that you look into updating if the system offers you a red flag.
Another fairly standard reason is that you've turned off the UAC (User Account Controls) on a Vista or Windows 7 system. This is a fairly useful feature and now that they've patched it, you might want to turn it back on.
Finally, if you came here because you want the "Your Computer May Be at Risk" popups to go away, then I can help too. Just open up your security center by clicking on the red shield or using the control panel. There should be an option to "Change the Way That Security Center Alerts Me." Click on it and then turn off the popups. it's best to do this only if you're aware of the problem and don't want to be bothered.
Image Credit: Screenshot: Windows Warning
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Protecting Your Computer
It's perfectly natural to want to protect your computer. If you feel that your computer may be at risk, and you're unsure if your virus protection is bad or good, then there are a few simple steps that you can take. Make sure that you pay attention to those windows warnings. Just having an up-to-date system will do wonders. Of course, you'll also need to browse safely. Don't trust websites blindly and do not download any programs unless you know they are safe. Most spyware and annoying toolbars work their way onto computers because the users just don't pay attention to what they're downloading. Also, try to find a good antivirus program, such as Avast, Avira or AVG. This should be able to catch anything that slips through your net.
The most important thing to do is not to panic. Just think about the logic behind those online warnings. They try to frighten you into hasty decisions that will ultimately ruin your computer. If you take a moment to understand the situation, then you will be able to keep your computer safe from any risks online.