Computer viruses have not been in the news much lately but they are still a serious threat to the stability of your computer and the safety of your information. In the past few years, virus writers have become increasingly sophisticated in both their techniques and their goals. Hackers are no longer so interested in viruses that merely commit vandalism (like wiping your hard drive). Today, they craft their viruses to install backdoors, keystroke loggers and other programs that will allow them to either control your computer or steak your information. The viruses themselves are often designed to work around many anti-virus programs. "Polymorphic" viruses will modify their own code in order to avoid detection. Others will quietly disable your anti-virus program so that you won’t get the updates you need to clean the virus out. One virus recently discovered will even install its own anti-virus program designed to keep competitor viruses out.

If you don’t have a good anti-virus program on your home computer already, pick one and install it immediately. Above all, keep it current and run your scans regularly.

Never disable your anti-virus program.

The Austrian organization, AV-Comparatives, has released their latest study of the relative effectiveness of 12 commercially available anti-virus software programs. Six of the programs earned their highest rating, McAfee and Dr Web earned their lowest rating and Microsoft’s new OneCare package failed to qualify for any rating. You can also find a quick-reference table on the Comparatives page of the website.

The authors of the study are careful to say that you should consider not only how effective the programs are at finding and stopping viruses but also how easy the programs are to use and to keep current. An anti-virus program that blocks every possible threat but that also blocks your attempts to get work done is not a good choice even though it would score very highly on these tests.

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