Various news outlets and antivirus vendors are warning against a malicious worm that will trigger on April 1st of this year called the Conficker. It is considered a troublesome worm that will render your PC over to the hacker who will have the ability to control it as if he were sitting right in front of it.(Yahoo sample article here: http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/null/128643/beware-conficker-worm-come-april-1/ )
While this is a real threat, particularly ominous warning (and a lot of sensationalism in my opinion) the fact of the matter is, if you have up to date antivirus software, are careful about what you download and have been diligent about performing Windows updates on your home computer you probably need not be concerned about this virus.
There are many ways that you can get a worm or virus on your computer but the latest scheme involves a spoofed email that appears to come from your Internet Service Provider (ATT, Comcast, etc) and instructs you to click on a link to download"important service updates" to your computer. When you click on the link it takes you to a realistic looking(albeit fake or spoofed) web site from your provider and an immediate download box appears on the screen. If you click OK to install it, the worm is installed and your computer is now owned by the hacker. (Pwned in hacker slang) This is also known as a drive by download.
Notice that it takes action by the user in order for this to happen. So it is always important to question WHY, if you are ever asked to download a file and verify the website you are on before you do so for maximum protection
You can check your home Computer with FREE tools available from Trend or Microsoft. Most of these tools will require that you allow an ActiveX control be run on your computer in order to run. You can trust content from the Microsoft.com, Live.com and TrendMicro.com web sites, just verify you are on the correct link.
Microsoft has Live Scan you can use to scan your Computer Online at:http://onecare.live.com/site/en-us/default.htm
Just click on the Full Service Scan and follow the directions and Microsoft will test your computer to verify there is no malware installed.
Microsoft offers a plethora of information on how to protect your home computer here: http://www.microsoft.com/protect/default.mspx
TrendMicro has provided many useful FREE utilities also that can be used on your computer.
Housecall is very useful and will scan your entire computer Online for malicious thingshttp://us.trendmicro.com/us/products/personal/free-tools-and-services/index.html
Click on the Housecall link and then click on the launch Housecall Free scan button and follow the instructions
Also on the above TrendMicro page is a utility called TrendProtect. This utility is a plug-in for Internet Explorer that will help prevent you from accidently going to a web site that contains Malware or Viruses. Click on the link for it and click on the download button on the next page to install it. Click on the "Install for Internet Explorer" button and choose Run. The install will continue.
There are also several other useful FREE utilities on the TrendMicro link above.
It is inevitable that some nasty bug may someday creep inside your computer but if you follow the above advice it is hopefully more likely that it will be a real fly or mosquito versus a piece of malware software with intent on stealing your data.
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