A large part of my job is helping customers deal with virus-infected computers. All the antivirus programs in the world won't help if you click on the wrong thing, and some folks, believe it or not, will click on anything.
Antivirus programs are not perfect. In a way, many people have been conned into thinking that, simply because they have an antivirus program installed, their computer is protected from any and all Internet threats forever and ever, amen. Sorry, folks: that has never been true and probably never will be true.
I explained this to one person who had, unbeknownst to him, been sending me spam email messages. Many computer viruses are designed to turn your computer into a spam forwarding center, sending hundreds or thousands of spam emails around the world without your knowledge.
When the messages arrive, they will have your email address listed as the sender and, if bad turns to worse, you will be blamed for sending spam messages designed to scam people out of their money, or even distribute other nasties, such as child pornography.
It's sort of like if your kids were dealing drugs out of your back yard. Maybe you didn't know they were dealing drugs from your back yard, but, because you are the parent and it's your back yard, you could ultimately take the blame for dealing drugs, because you are responsible for what happens in your own back yard.
"How," my customer wondered, "could my computer be infected? I'm using an updated antivirus program. I ran a scan and it didn't find anything. How could a virus have gotten through?"
The sad truth is, no antivirus program is perfect. They all fall down on the job somewhere, especially when you willfully click on the wrong thing and, in essence, tell the antivirus program to let it in. There is no such thing as a "set it and forget it" computer security solution; it simply does not exist. Numerous studies have been done which prove this point. Unfortunately, due to high-powered advertising and marketing campaigns, many people refuse to believe it.
Good computer safety is done in layers. Many components need to be in place before any level of confidence can be achieved. Expecting a simple antivirus program to provide perfect safety is like expecting a new set of tires to prevent you from wrecking your car. Your car also needs things like brakes, wipers and mirrors in its automobile safety package.
Even with all the right layers, such as antivirus, antispam, firewalls, browser protection and security updates, computer security cannot be 100% guaranteed. Maybe you'll sail across the Internet, forever trouble-free, or, like most of us, you'll have an occasional flat tire or fender-bender. Keep in mind that computer security depends on you being vigilant, and, since of course, you are being vigilant, you'll most likely be OK.
Dave Moore has been fixing computers in Oklahoma since 1984. Founder of the non-profit Internet Safety Group Ltd., he also teaches Internet safety community training workshops. He can be reached at 919-9901 or internetsafetygroup.com