SIMPLITECH You also have to be cautious about several ‘free’ anti-virus programs available.

I used to pride myself on using genuine software and not hesitating to buy them if they were worthy. Not until last month, when my computer refused to connect to the Internet.

Over one week, I tried my best to solve it. The computer’s troubleshooting option said everything was working fine. The technician from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) checked everything and said the problem was with my computer, not with the ISP.

My techie friend spent hours trying to solve it. He tried everything under the sun, but finally arrived at the conclusion that it could be a virus attack on the network card. There could be no other reason. But running an anti-virus scan or even reformatting the computer did not help.

What had made the network card misbehave? I had a paid version of a good anti-virus program. I vaguely remembered it notifying something about a malware a few weeks ago, and I also remembered quarantining it.

There was just one plausible reason — the antivirus could not detect the virus or trojan. What could have I possibly done to prevent this? Nothing. Maybe, I could have installed a ‘better’ anti-virus, but all anti-virus programs have drawbacks and none of them are 100 per cent fool-proof.

Does this mean there was no way out? No. Such attacks can happen despite taking full precaution. But unfortunately, most of us don’t take the mandatory precautions.

It all starts when we buy a desktop or a laptop. The first place where we try to save money is on the operating system. Linux is free, but the most popular Windows (or iOS), is not. We coax the dealers to put in a hacked version of the operating system and we are happy to have saved a few thousand rupees. The happiness is not likely to last long. If you have installed a pirated operating system, you will not get the updates released by Microsoft. And these updates include critical ones that fix the ‘holes’ in the operating system. Without these updates, your system is a sitting duck for security threats.

Next comes the anti-virus. Again, we scour the Net for a ‘free’ version, and happily install one when we find it. What we have to remember here is that the free versions have several limitations, including slower and lesser updates. Some also don’t offer complete protection from threats from root-kits.

How do you select a good anti-virus? As for any product, it is better to do some research like looking up reviews and checking its features. It is also better to spend a little more and go in for total Internet protection instead of just an anti-virus.

You may be shelling out a little bit more, but it is definitely worth it. It is better if the package includes root-kit protection.

It is not enough that you have a good anti-virus installed. It has to be constantly updated. There are people who switch off live updates to save on bandwidth and money. With hundreds of viruses released every day, anti-virus makers keep releasing new definitions or updates. If your anti-virus does not have the latest update, you are in for trouble.

If you are confident that you can do anything now that your computer is fully protected, you are wrong.

Having a good anti-virus installed does not mean it is safe to click and download anything.

You must also ensure that the firewall is closed. If you see a Windows notification saying that there are security issues, don’t ignore it. Clicking on the notification will tell you what the security issue is. It could be about an open firewall or about some problem with the anti-virus.

You have to be extremely cautious about messages like ‘Virus found. Click here to remove’ — unless it is from your own anti-virus. If the message is popping out of the browser, you can be rest assured that it is an invitation for disaster. It is also better to scan all e-mail attachments before downloading them. Usually right-clicking on the attachment will display the anti-virus scan option. .

You also have to be cautious about several ‘free’ anti-virus programs available. Most of them are, in fact, viruses themselves. Even mobiles are not spared. There are ‘free’ anti-virus and battery saving programs that are filled with trojans and virus.

dinakaran.rengachary@thehindu.co.in