Security threats have always been the bane of Windows users. This led to the development of anti-virus software. Anti-virus applications seek to detect threats and eliminate them before they can cause damage. This has always been hit-and-miss. Even the top ranked anti-virus product cannot protect against all existing threats, and new threats emerge every day.
Anti-virus software also has a downside. It introduces more complexity into an already complex system. It can interfere with the functioning of applications, or the computer as a whole. In some ways it can make the computer less secure, because it opens up a new target for the malware creators to attack.
Malware might be the biggest source of problems with Windows computers, but the second biggest cause of problems is arguably anti-virus software itself!
Fortunately, Windows 10 is more secure than previous operating systems, and actually has built in security with “Windows Defender”.
The article below makes a strong argument for ditching 3rd party anti-virus software, although in many cases I believe the extra security from a good AV product is worth the extra maintenance associated with it.
There is a currently a particularly nasty form of malware circulating the internet dubbed “ransomware”.
It can completely wipe out a computer, plus any external drives or network drives attached. Once infected you are effectively locked out of your PC and files. All your computer does is show you a message about paying a large ransom in a crypto-currency like BitCoin. The ransoms I have seen have been for US$500, but there is no guarantee that paying the ransom will undo the damage.
Infections are usually caused by opening an email attachment, but the malware can also be disguised as music, movies or software from torrent and download sites.
Prevention is important as recovery is expensive and some or all of your data could be lost permanently. Once infected, the only guaranteed cure is to recover from a backup. If the backup is connected at the time of infection it is likely to be lost too.
Unfortunately, antivirus software cannot stop all threats. Some estimate that more than half of malware attacks are able to bypass the best antivirus software. Those who produce the malware are always 1 or 2 steps ahead, and there is so much money involved now that they are very motivated and organised.
The best prevention is to never open any attachment that you are not expecting, and to be very careful with which websites you visit. Be particularly suspicious of emails purportedly from Australia Post and other delivery companies, and bank or government agency messages. If in doubt, call me or check with the sender via an independent communication method (ie don’t use the email address or phone number supplied in the email).
This article contains an interesting breakdown of hard drive failure rates, by make and model.