Frequently asked questions about Viruses,
Adware & Spyware
What is a virus?
A virus is a program or piece of programming code designed
to cause problems with the computers that it infects. A
virus is also designed to replicate itself so that it can
spread from one computer to another. The damage that a virus
causes can be minor (like making an annoying message appear
on your screen), or major (like destroying data on your
Viruses often (but not always) spread through email and
can disguise themselves as a computer game or as a link
to an interesting web site. Some viruses look for weaknesses
in the Windows operating systems and can spread to your
computer when it is on the Internet even though you aren't
actively doing anthing! That's why it's important to keep
your Windows system updated with the link to Microsoft's
Update site on our home page.
Worms and Trojans are special types of viruses, but for
all practical purposes we'll refer to all of them as just
"viruses" on this page.
What is adware or spyware?
Adware is a program installed on your computer that usually
displays popup ads or blinking advertisements when you connect
to the internet. Spyware is a program that transmits personal
information from your computer to places on the Internet,
possibly including sites that you visit for marketing research
or even personal financial information.
It is possible to get infected with adware or spyware knowingly
- by clicking on an agreement to download a free piece of
software in exchange for adware installation, for instance
- but more often it is done without your knowledge and may
happen just by clicking on the wrong link on a web site.
Some of the signs that you have adware or spyware include
seeing lots of popup windows even when you aren't actively
clicking on anything in your browser, seeing your start
page (the page that first comes up when you open the browser)
change by itself, or seeing new program icons appear that
you didn't install.
While some adware and spyware programs can simply be uninstalled
in Control Panel under Add/Remove Programs, most (like viruses)
are very difficult to remove, and also very annoying !
How can I avoid getting viruses?
There are lots of viruses and worms on the internet. Our
virus filter protects your email from most known viruses,
but others can infect you via web browsing or direct attacks
by hackers. You can avoid viruses and worms, however, with
some prudent precautions:
- If you get an email with an attachment, make sure that
you need to open it before doing so. If you are not sure
or don't know the sender, do not open the attachment.
- If you suspect you have a virus that you got from email,
disconnect your computer from the network if you are on
a computer network. This will help prevent other computers
from getting infected. If you have a dialup connection,
you should disconnect the phone line from the modem or wall
jack. This is the only way to insure that you are not connected
to the Internet. Some viruses can actually dial out using
your modem without you knowing about it. There have been
cases where the virus will run up huge phone bills by calling
- If you use Windows, keep your Windows system up to date
by downloading critical updates from Microsoft's Windows
- Obtain a virus protection program. If you already own
such a program, make sure that you update it often. New
viruses are released on a daily basis. It is very important
that you keep your virus program updated, so the program
will have the best chance of detecting the newest viruses.
If you don't have an anti-virus program you can download
a free anti-virus program from GRISoft by clicking
here. You can also perform a free virus
scan online by visiting www.trendmicro.com
and click the Free Virus Scan link.
- Do not download files from an unknown or untrustworthy
source. Every time you download a file from the Internet,
you risk virus infection. The best thing you can do is not
download files at all, but if you do download files, it
is generally accepted that some of the major download sites
are "safer". There are some sites that check all
files for viruses before they make them available for download.
However, this is still no guarantee that it will be virus
- If you think you have a virus, take your machine in to
a computer repair center and have a trained technician check
it for viruses. You may risk further damage the longer you
wait to do this. Sometimes a virus cannot be found or cleaned
by a virus program; only a trained technician will know
what to do in such cases.
I avoid getting adware or spyware?
Most of the suggestions above to avoid getting viruses
apply here as well. Here's some prudent precautions you
- Don't open an email attachment or download and install
anything from web sites unless you know it is from a trusted
- If you are trying to close a popup window in your web
browser, always close it by clicking on the little "X"
in the upper right of the popup. Never hit a "Close
this Window" button in the middle of the popup since
this is often a disguised adware installation trick.
- If you get an email from someone you do not know asking
you to click on a particular link, don't click it! Be particularly
careful of emails that look like they are from eBay, PayPal
or other financial institutions asking you to "verify
your financial information" by clicking on a link.
The link may look legitimate but is usually an attempt by
someone to gather your personal financial information.
- Obtain an adware/spyware protection program. If you already
own such a program, make sure that you update it regularly
to keep your protection current. You can download a free
adware/spyware remover from SpyBot
Search & Destroy by clicking
here. Another free spyware remover called Ad-aware
is available from LavaSoft.
In any case, once you install an adware/spyware remover
run an update from it first to get the latest protection
for your PC!
How can I check for and remove viruses?
The only way to check for and remove viruses from your
PC is to install and maintain with current updates a good
anti-virus program. Some of the more popular are available
You can download a free anti-virus program from GRISoft
by clicking here. You can also perform a free virus
scan online by visiting
www.trendmicro.com and click the Free Virus
How can I check for and remove adware and spyware?
The only way to check for and remove adware/spyware from
your PC is to install and maintain with current updates
a good adware remover. McAfee
makes a good commercial adware remover. You can download
a free adware/spyware remover from
SpyBot Search & Destroy by clicking
here. Another free adware remover called Ad-aware is
available from LavaSoft.