University of Malta

Guidelines for Protection against Viruses
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IT Services Student Guide
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IT Services recommends the following set of guidelines to help users deal with computer viruses:

  • Install an anti-virus program in your computer system. Avira AntiVir Professional is available for use by members of staff and departments. University students can install Avira AntiVir Personal on their personal computer. This edition is free for personal use. Avira anti-virus is able to detect and, in most cases, remove viruses in the computer system.
  • Update your anti-virus program regularly. Unfortunately, new viruses are being developed all the time. Thus, if your anti-virus program is not updated on a regular basis it will not be able to detect new virus types and variants. When your anti-virus program is updated, new entries are added to the software's virus definitions database so that suspect files can be recognised and dealt with. Avira anti-virus is updated automatically when your computer is connected to Internet.
  • Make regular backup copies of all data files present in your computer. Viruses can damage or destroy data stored in the hard disk. Backups enable retrieval of lost data.
  • Treat all files attached to emails with caution - scan these files before opening. Some file types, particularly those carrying the extension .EXE, .COM, .PIF, .JS, .VBS, .SHS, .SCR, .DOT, are potential viral infections. Double file extensions e.g. "readme.txt.vbs", should always be treated with suspicion. Just because an email appears to come from someone you trust does not mean that the file is safe or that the supposed sender has anything to do with it.
  • Scan shared CDs, DVDs, USB flash (pen) drive etc. Some computer users may unknowingly transmit viruses via disks.
  • Be careful with program or file downloads from the Web.
    Avoid downloading files from bulletin boards or public newsgroups. These are potential sources of viral infections. Software updates e.g. drivers, multimedia players, should be downloaded from the manufacturer's official website.
  • If your anti-virus software reports a suspect file, take all possible action before shutting down your computer system. Typically viruses transmit information to your operating system and into the system registry during computer startup (i.e. when MS Windows is being loaded). Accordingly you should disinfect, rename or remove the suspect file before shutting down your system. Occasionally your anti-virus software detects a suspect file that cannot be disinfected. If this happens you will be told that the suspect file can't be disinfected, and offered the choice to rename or delete it. If you cannot rename the file, delete it unless you have valid reasons not to do so.
  • When using Microsoft software, always make sure that you keep macro virus protection enabled. Macros are stored sets of instructions which are used within Microsoft Office applications to automate complex or repetitive tasks. Some viruses may infect computer system through these macros. By default, macros are always enabled in Microsoft applications. Do not disable! If you receive a macro warning when you open a Microsoft Office file, always select the "disable macros" option unless you expect the file to contain a macro and know that you can trust it.
  • Never pass on a virus warning without checking first that it isn't a hoax. Hoax email messages often warn recipients about non-existent viruses. Such hoaxes can be dangerous especially if recipients are instructed to delete essential system files from their computers to prevent viral infections. Hoax email messages should be deleted.

Last Updated: 21 May 2010

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