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10 Best Practices for Avoiding Computer viruses

Applies to: Microsoft Office
By taking the following precautions, you can help reduce the risk of your computer being infected by a virus:

  • Use the default security settings in Office Office 2003 is the most secure version of Office yet released. It has safeguards in place to help protect your programs and data from viruses. Microsoft recommends that you do not change the Office default settings to lower security settings. For more information about Office security, visit the Security site on Microsoft Office Online.
  • Keep your computer updated with the latest critical updates and security patches The easiest way to do this is to visit the Protect Your PC site, which guides you on using an Internet firewall (firewall: A combination of hardware and software that provides a security system, usually to prevent unauthorized access from outside to an internal network or intranet.), updating your Microsoft Windows® operating system by using the Windows Update site, and using up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Keep Office updated with the latest critical updates Make sure to visit the Office Update site to download the latest critical patches and enhancements for free. Upgrading to the latest version of Office ensures that you have the latest security features.
  • Install and run antivirus software Install an antivirus software program from a well-known, reputable company, and run it as recommended by the provider. If the program has an automatic virus-scanning feature, keep it turned on. Remember that new viruses can be released every single day. Therefore, if the product has an auto-update feature, you should use it to help protect your computer from the latest viruses. For more information about antivirus software vendors you can sign up with, see the Antivirus Partners site.
  • Find out whether or not you really have a virus Viruses often run without your knowing. However, if your computer is acting strangely or one of your programs is not working correctly, this does not necessarily mean that your computer has a virus. Being aware of specific symptoms that a particular virus causes is key. You can get this information from the Microsoft Antivirus Information site. It will alert you to the latest viruses, their severity, and the symptoms they cause.
  • Check the Microsoft Security Bulletins regularly An up-to-date list of security issues affecting Microsoft products is available on the Microsoft Security Bulletins site. This site provides technical information about specific security issues that affect specific products. If you don’t want to remember to check the site regularly, you can subscribe to get security bulletin e-mail notifications for free that let you know about important security updates from Microsoft. In the past, hackers have attempted to mimic these notifications to send bogus information. However, it is not difficult to tell whether or not a Microsoft security-related message is genuine, because: 1) Authentic Microsoft security bulletin notifications never include software updates as attachments. Instead, they always link to the update on the Microsoft.com Web site. 2) Authentic Microsoft security bulletin notifications are always digitally signed. For more information, see how to tell if a Microsoft security-related message is genuine.
  • Download files only from trusted sites When downloading a file from a Web site, be sure you know the source! You should try to download files only from known, well-established companies. When in doubt, don’t download the file. As an extra precaution, you can download files onto a disk separate from your hard disk, such as a floppy disk or a zip disk, and then scan the files with your virus scanner.
  • Install only from authentic CDs In general, installing software from authentic, commercially distributed CDs is the safest method. For example, all Microsoft CDs have holograms to prove their authenticity.
  • Back up data regularly Make regular backups. If a virus erases or corrupts files on your hard disk, a recent backup may be the only way to recover your data. Back up your entire system regularly. At the minimum, back up files that you can’t afford to lose, such as documents, pictures, favorite links, address books, and important e-mail messages. For details on backing up your specific program’s data, search Office Online. You can also use the Backup or Restore Wizard in Microsoft Windows XP to back up your data. In Windows XP, on the Start menu, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click Backup. Follow the instructions in the Backup or Restore Wizard.
  • Don’t open suspicious e-mail messages or files Don’t open suspicious or unsolicited e-mail messages or files. Even though Microsoft Outlook® helps protect your computer from viruses, you don’t want to give spammers (people who send junk or unwanted e-mail messages) a chance. In Microsoft Office Outlook® 2003, you can filter your Inbox and send suspicious messages to your Junk E-mail folder.
  • Source: http://office.microsoft.com