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Keeping Your Anti-Virus Software Up-To-Date


The need for anti-virus software
One of the sad realities of the Internet these days is that the trouble makers are getting more and more clever in how they can cause damage to your computer via computer viruses. If you are anything more than a very casual user of the Internet and you are not running any virus protection sofware, at some point you will get hit with a virus. It's not a matter of "if", only a question of "when". And even if you are using a good anti-virus program, if you aren't keeping it up-to-date, odds are you will still get hit.

How anti-virus software works
The way that anti-virus software works is that there's a program running all the time in the background of your computer, examining your files and testing them for the presence of known viruses. And the key word here is "known" viruses. What the program is doing is looking at various patterns in each file and comparing those patterns to a database of all known viruses. And if it finds a file with a pattern that matches something in the database, you will get a warning and typically instructions on how to proceed. Because of this reliance on a database, your protection is only as good as the database that your program is using. If your virus database is a couple of months old, and you get a file that is infected with a virus that is only a week or two old, then your anti-virus program will not be able to detect that virus!

How to keep things up-to-date
So that's why it is very important that you continually update your anti-virus files. Note that you are not updating your anti-virus program -- but just updating it's virus definitions database. This process varies from one program to another, but it typically consists of simply going to the web site of the company that makes your anti-virus software and downloading and installing the lastest files. You will have to check with your particular vendor for details. It's important that you do this update on a regular basis -- certainly at least once a month, or maybe even once a week. Do make this one of your regular habits!

How to test your anti-virus software
Since the virus protection program runs unobtrusively in the background, sometimes it's difficult to tell if it's really working at all. Something might have happened to the configuration or setup, and unbeknownst to you, even though you are regularly updating the definitions file, you may not be protected at all. Fortunately there's a quick online test you can do to check that your program is working -- it's at:

http://www.eicar.org/anti_virus_test_file.htm

You might also want to make a habit of going there periodically and running that test to insure that all is working as it's supposed to.