ROUGHS3X'S Guide to PC Safety
I'm sure you have noticed that there have been many attacks aimed at our forum community as of late. More recently it's become apparent that users around here are becoming careless. The amount of people reformatting and suggesting that users reformat is astounding. So take heed to what I'm about to tell you.
General Safety & Precaution
On MPGH there are rules in place to protect you from having issues. Many of you quote these rules but don't actually follow them or understand them. Here are some general rules of thumb that you can follow not only on MPGH but elsewhere as well.
#1 Refrain from downloading any files from an outside source such as popular upload sites, paid to download sites, etc. Our "No Outside Links" policy is great but it's a bit misunderstood. You're not going to click simply click a link and receive a virus. But you never want to download files from a source you can't trust. Remember not to stretch the definition of trust either. Post count doesn't always mean a lot so be sure to download files from any location at your own risk. People make mistakes, even staff, and an infection could slip through.
#2 This is mainly for you XP users. Windows operating systems, the older they get, attract more and more attention from the makers of viruses. There are several reasons behind this but the main reasons are the popularity of the systems' use, the relative ease of hacking familiar systems, and since they are so popular attacking them becomes more rewarding when you're seeking to steal personal information. Windows Vista and 7 are 2 relatively safe systems. I don't know if you know this but having been out for a decade now Windows XP is the most attacked system on the planet. Windows 95 is the least attacked of the Windows family of operating systems.
Note: I haven't been infected for years now and I don't run a firewall or an active anti-virus program. By active I mean one that is constantly scanning. I do run periodic scans with MalwareBytes' Anti-Malware which I will cover here shortly. By not running the anti-virus software I am taking a greater risk but I am running on a system that performs like a charm. Vista alone runs at about 1GB of memory and most anti-virus programs run upwards of that as well. Do the math.
#3 Learn to look for signs of an infection in the early stages. If you start to see notifications popping up near your system tray it's time to get some help. No professional anti-virus software is going to notify you that you need to run a scan and download any software. Those are very popular viruses as are Google and IE hijackers. Common signs of viruses can be seen while using Internet Explorer and Google together. You may search for "landscaping design" and you will briefly see the results you were looking for. Then the page will redirect to "2010 Anti-Virus" or some other bullshit like that. Never under any circumstances click any link on a page you did not ask to visit. If you visit a website and are redirected to a completely different website back out of it. Many infections will take a button press of Cancel or Close to be the same as OK. Never click on a button within a dialogue box like that. If you have a fake anti-virus type virus unplug your internet. That's the best thing you can do at the time to prevent further infection. When that dialogue box pops up and you press OK, Cancel, or Close, they all register as "OK. Give me more viruses please." In fact, at any point if you suspect you are infected, disconnect from the internet immediately and use another system to browse for a cure if you don't already have the necessary tools on the infected system to handle it.
"Well ROUGHS3X what can I do to prevent this from happening or to fix the problem when it does occur?"
Solutions & Resources
#1 You will need a great resource to turn to for not only advice and support but the tools needed to fix just about any computer problem you might come across. I highly recommend Major Geeks Support Forums. Not only is it free but they are extremely helpful and knowledgeable.
#2 I highly recommend 2 programs to seek out and remove your stubborn infections. HijackThis by Trend Micro is an excellent utility to scan for problems especially within your registry. ComboFix is also a very powerful virus removal tool and should also be used very carefully. Both of these tools could potentially cause as much harm as they could help you so be sure to read the instructions very thoroughly. Major Geeks' staff/users will most likely provide support with them as posting there often requires reports from either of these tools before they will assist you.
#3 Prevention and early detection is key with infections these days. In my opinion, MalwareBytes' Anti-Malware is about as good as they come for running system scans. Unlike Symantec and Norton style anti-virus programs MBAM does not need to run in the background. Users suspicious of a possible infection simply choose to run it. So while it is not an active anti-virus program it is still very reliable. It is free and fully functional.
I hope you've learned something by reading this. These are some very strong and easily available tools to help keep your system running cleaner, faster, and longer. If you're as lucky as I am you'll go years without a virus as well.