Technology Advice in Plain English

Protect Yourself from Windows Worms


More than three million Windows computers around the world have been hit by a malicious worm, but your computer doesn’t need to become one of this growing number. Just a few simple steps can protect you and save you hours of trouble.

A computer worm is a self-propagating piece of malicious software. Computer worms use networks (like the internet) to send copies of themselves out to other computers on those networks. Since no action is necessary on the part of computer users for a worm to infect their systems, users are often unaware they’ve been infected, and they unwittingly allow the worm to infect other users.

On Friday, the BBC reported that, in this particular case, “the malicious program, known as Conficker, Downadup or Kido was first discovered in October 2008.” Microsoft released a patch specifically to stop this worm from infecting machines, but it remains a problem because many owners of Windows computers have not downloaded and installed this patch.

To ensure you don’t get infected, you only need to take a few steps:

  1. Go to your computer’s Control Panel—you’ll find this under the Start menu.
  2. For Windows XP users, find and double click on Automatic Updates. Depending on the configuration of your computer, you’ll find this under System or Performance and Maintenance. If you can’t find it, just run a search for Automatic Updates within the Windows Help Center.

    For Windows Vista users, go to Security, then Windows Update and then Change Settings.

  3. Your Automatic Updates should be set to “Automatic” and the computer should be checking “Every day” at a time when your computer will be on, if you have broadband internet access. If you’re using dial-up service to connect to the internet, choose a day of the week and a time that you’re usually connected to the internet.
  4. To be sure your computer is up-to-date right now, use Internet Explorer (hopefully you’re using the most recent version, which is IE 7 right now) to visit Microsoft’s update site at: Click on Express, and Microsoft’s site will check for you.

For more information and advice on security from Microsoft, you can consult their website or your computer’s Help Center. And for more information on the latest worm and the damage it has caused, you can read the BBC’s full article Three Million Hit by Windows Worm.

Good luck keeping your computer protected, and, as always, thanks for reading my tech blog!

Copyright © 2009, Kathy Keating and All rights reserved.

posted under Computers, Internet

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