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More Great Ways to Speed up Vista: Protect Against Malware

written by: Dianna Monda Dill•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 5/12/2009

Learn how to protect your PC against viruses, spyware and other malware to prevent them from wreaking havoc on your PC or crippling it completely.

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    The most effective way to deal with malware is to prevent infection in the first place. This is especially critical for a Vista system, because it is an open secret that most malware is designed to target Windows operating systems. Read on to learn how to keep your PC free.

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    Tip #5: Install and Run a Realtime Anti-malware Program

    For optimum protection, you should install a program that is designed to scan your system on a regular basis, so as to detect and remove malware before it has a chance to infect your system.

    Some security software, such as Windows Defender, is only designed to target malicious software after your PC has already been infected – it does not defend your system against infection. Regardless of how reliable this post-infection program may be, supplement it with anti-malware that provides real-time protection 24/7.

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    Tip #6: Regularly Update your Anti-malware Programs

    It is essential that you regularly update your antivirus and antispyware programs, as well as any other security software that you have installed. It is good practice to set up the programs to alert you when updates are available or to automatically download them as they become available.

    Running up-to-date anti-malware is critical because malware developers are constantly creating or changing their malicious applications to better breach your PC’s defenses. Anti-malware developers work just as hard to keep up with the new threats and regularly release vulnerability patches for their software. You should download these patches to update your anti-malware with the latest virus definitions.

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    Tip #7: Use a Firewall

    Enable Vista's built-in firewall or install a reliable third-party firewall to secure your Internet connection. A firewall is designed to police network traffic, letting in and out only that which is trusted. An active firewall will help protect your system from unauthorized viruses and from hackers. It will also block malware from downloading additional malicious programs to your PC.

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    Tip #8: Isolate Infected computers or drives

    As soon as you discover that your computer is infected with viruses, disconnect it from the Internet until you have run an up-to-date antivirus program. If it is on a network, you should likewise disconnect and disinfect it before you restore it to the network. This will ensure that the virus cannot access the internet to transmit information or download more malicious software. It also prevents the malware from spreading to other computers on your network.

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    Tip #9: Scan all Email Attachments and Downloaded Files

    Before you open any email attachments or downloaded file, you should scan it with your anti-malware program to ensure that it does not contain any malicious program. Do not open or run any attachments that do not come from a source you know and trust, particularly if they have an .exe, .msi, .bat, .zip, or .scr extension. You should contact the sender to confirm that the emailed attachment is legit.

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    Tip #10: Enable Macro Protection

    Microsoft documents, particularly Word and Excel are vulnerable to getting infected by a macro virus, such as the Melissa virus of 1999. These are typically spread as email viruses embedded in the document, which automatically trigger a series of actions when the program is launched. Enable macro protection before you open any Word or Excel document attachments.