Viruses, worms, and trojan horses are the biggest threats to personal computer security. Virus protection is a necessity for everyone that owns or uses a computer. While PCs have more problems with viruses, the advent of macro viruses means Macintoshes are vulnerable as well.

While everyone needs to be alert to the problems viruses cause, e-mailed virus warnings are a separate problem. Most “warnings” are actually virus hoaxes; please do not forward any virus warnings! Visit sites like McAfee’s Virus Information page for virus information or for virus hoax information.


Protect your computer against unauthorized access and against spyware/adware and viruses. At a minimum, these can change your computer’s configuration or make it not work properly. Worse, they can be used to collect your personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. To protect your computer:

  • Never install an application from a Web site unless you know exactly what that application does and what company created it.
  • Install anti-spyware software such as SpyBot ( and Ad-Aware ( and update it regularly.
  • Install an anti-virus program such as McAfee Virus Scan.
  • Enable your computer’s firewall. See our self-help tools at the IT Service Desk page.
  • Disable third-party cookies, which can be used to snoop on you. (In Internet Explorer, click the Tools menu and then choose Internet options. On the Privacy tab, make sure you’re using at least the Medium privacy setting.)
  • Enable prompting for software installation. (In the Internet options settings for Internet Explorer, select the Security tab. Press the Custom level button for the Internet zone to access this setting.)
  • Don’t install or run file-sharing programs. They often contain spyware, and files found on these networks may be viruses.
  • Use a pop-up blocker and phishing filter in your Web browser. (These are located on the Tools menu in Internet Explorer.)
  • Don’t use an easy-to-guess password like ones using pet or relative names, default passwords for computers and other network tools, or words found in a dictionary.
  • Include special characters (#@!&%) in your passwords.
  • Don’t post your password on post-it notes on your monitor or anywhere others can see it.
  • Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts, and change your password often.

Virus Prevention Tips

  1. Stay aware of current virus news by checking sites like McAfee’s AVERT Alerts.
  2. Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date, and use it. The University of Alabama distributes the McAfee/Virex line of software to its faculty, staff, students, and retirees.
  3. Make sure that your anti-virus software checks all files every time they’re opened.
  4. Don’t open e-mail attachments that you did not expect and don’t know exactly what they are.
  5. When downloading files from the Internet, download only from reputable sites and scan the files before executing them.
  6. Be careful exchanging disks and files between computers. If you are taking a file to a computer lab for printing, write-protect the floppy disk.
  7. If you use Microsoft Outlook (not Express) for e-mail, make sure that the “automatic preview” feature is disabled. You can find this option under the “View” menu.
  8. Make sure that Microsoft Office macro virus protection is enabled.
  9. Consider deinstalling Windows Scripting Host.

Want More?

Don’t let spyware sneak onto your computer to give others a peek at information you enter online. Get wise to the spyware guise by taking this quiz.

Computer Security 101 by Darren Homme received an honorable mention in the 2006 Security Awareness Video Contest sponsored by the EDUCAUSE/Internet2 Computer and Network Security Task Force and the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Late Night Problems by Cory Schwarzmiller received an honorable mention in the 2007 Security Awareness Video Contest sponsored by the EDUCAUSE/Internet2 Computer and Network Security Task Force, the National Cyber Security Alliance, and ResearchChannel.

McAfee ePO

If you are an information technology administrator on the University of Alabama campus, you are licensed to use McAfee’s ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO).Contact the IT Service Desk for more information