One of saddest things in entire world is hearing words, "I think I've been hit by a virus" or "my computer was destroyed by a virus, can you help me please?"
Every time I hear these words I want to cry - well, actually I want to scream in frustration and a little bit of anger. You see, it's not hard to protect your system from destruction by any one of fifty thousand or more viruses out in wild. In fact, it's so simple that it's pitiful that anyone gets caught "with their pants down" more than once in his or her lives.
By this time it's inconceivable that anyone with any contact with civilization is ignorant of viruses and their destructive potential. A few years ago you could claim ignorance (what's a virus?) but no longer. In these years after "I love you" and "Melissa", well, virus attacks appear on 6 o'clock news at least once a week and in newspaper just as often.
That's one of reasons why I groan when I hear that someone has lost their system to a virus attack. They cannot claim that they didn't know or didn't understand. In addition, protection is so simple and cheap that no one can use excuse of "it's too expensive" or "it's too difficult". Sorry, that just does not hold water.
Look at it this way - if someone is surfing internet they must be paying for a connection (say twenty dollars a month) and they have to have a computer (perhaps a thousand dollars). It's hard to accept that they cannot afford another thirty or fifty bucks for virus protection (in fact, many new computers come with an antivirus program pre-installed).
All right, preaching aside, what's best way to protect your system from virus attacks? To begin with, assume that you or someone who uses your computer might make a mistake and plan for worst. In other words, make assumption that if a virus is received, it will be executed, so make sure things are removed or rendered harmless before you see them.
Define and follow a good backup plan - First and foremost, figure out how you are going to back up your data. Didn't expect me to say that, did you? You have to understand that no virus protection system is perfect. If a virus does get through somehow, then you must be prepared to restore your data and files from a backup.
It does not matter if you hand copy your critical files to a floppy disk every night or if you have most advanced optical or tape backup system available. If nothing else, get a cheap ZIP drive plug it in and use backup software that comes with it (you can get this setup for around a hundred bucks).
Don't even think twice about this - if you don't have a backup solution then get one, now. If you are not keeping a backup then you are living on borrowed time (this also protects you from system failures, hackers and other dangers as well). ALL good security plans begin and end with backup and restore strategy.
Choose, install and maintain an antivirus solution - Personally, I really like Norton Antivirus program. I've installed it in our office and in my home, and I have not yet found a better program anywhere.
There is far more to an antivirus program than just checking for viruses. All of them do that. What Norton does that's different is very important - it also scans incoming emails for viruses so they are removed even before you open message.
Schedule virus updates at least once a week - More importantly, you can schedule virus updates to occur at regular (weekly) intervals. This is extremely important. Your virus definitions MUST BE UPDATED AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK. Otherwise, your protection slowly loses it's power to protect your system. This is almost as bad as not having any protection at all - because you think you are protected and you are not.