There are a few things you can do to keep your system safe from the infiltration of viruses and other harmful attacks.
1) Make sure Windows Firewall is turned on.
Windows Firewall helps block viruses and worms from reaching your computer, but it doesn't detect or disable them if they are already on your computer or come through email. Windows Firewall doesn't block unsolicited e-mail or stop you from opening e-mail with harmful attachments. For more information on Windows Firewall, see "Connecting to the Internet" on page 134 and "Setting Up Windows Firewall" on page 136.
2) Make sure Automatic Updates is turned on.
Windows Automatic Updates regularly checks the Windows Update web site for important updates that your computer needs, such as security updates, critical updates, and service packs. Each file that you download using Automatic Update has a digital signature from Microsoft to ensure its authenticity and security. For more information, see "Updating Windows" on page 440.
3) Make sure you are using the most up-to-date antivirus software. New viruses and more virulent strains of existing viruses are discovered every day. Unless you update your virus checking software, new viruses can easily bypass outdated virus checking software. Companies such as McAfee and Symantec offer shareware virus checking programs available for download directly from their web sites. These programs monitor your system, checking each time a file is added to your computer to make sure it's not in some way trying to change or damage valuable system files.
4) Be very careful of the sites from which you download files. Major file repository sites, such as FileZ, Download.com, or TuCows, regularly check the files they receive for viruses before posting them to their web sites. Don't download files from web sites unless you are certain that the sites check their files for viruses. Internet Explorer monitors downloads and warns you about potentially harmful files and gives you the option to block them. For more information, see "Downloading Files from the Web" on page 164.
5) Be very careful of file attachments in e-mail you open. As you receive e-mail, don't open or run an attached file unless you know who sent it and what it contains. If you're not sure, you should delete it. The Attachment Manager provides security information to help you understand more about the file you're opening. To protect your computer from harmful attacks, see "Sending and Retrieving a File" on page 182, "Reading and Replying to E-mail" on page 180, and "Protecting Against E-mail Attacks" on page 194.
6) Make sure you activate macro virus checking protection in both Word and Excel. To do so, click the Tools menu, point to Macro on the expanded menu, click Security, and then make sure that the High Security Level option is selected. (In Office 2000, XP, or later, click the Tools menu, click Options, click the General tab, and then make sure the Macro Virus Protection option is selected.) And always elect not to run macros when opening a Word or Excel file that you received from someone who might not be using proper virus protection.
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