– Ben Martens

Computer Security Series: Part 3

So now you’ve failed Part 1 or Part 2 of this security series and you have a virus. What should you do? The best thing is to stop everything. Turn off the machine and call your favorite geek. Offer them cookies and ask nicely. Remember that the virus warning might be fake and there’s nothing wrong with your computer.

If it’s legit and your computer is actually infected, your favorite geek is going to ask two things:

  1. Do you have all your data backed up? Good grief people, the answer better be a resounding yes. I’ve blogged about this so much. Here’s the test to see how good your backups are: if I walk into your house, throw your computer out into the street and drive over it, what is your reaction? If you’re only mad because of the money loss then you have good backups. If you start crying because of all the pictures and memories that you’ve lost, then YOU NEED TO BACK UP NOW. There’s no excuse for it. Go to and sign up. It’s stupid simple, nearly free and it will protect your precious memories without you having to think about it.
  2. Do you have the discs to reinstall all your software? Take all those discs that came with your computer and throw them in a bag for safe keeping. If you buy physical software, add the discs to that bag. If you buy software on the Internet, save a copy of it somewhere (not on your computer) to be reused later. Don’t forget to keep all the product keys with the discs too. If you’ve lost the product keys to Windows or Office, check out Magic Jelly Bean (or this open source version). It’s a nifty tool that helped me out recently.

They want to know these answers because the best way to remove a virus is to wipe the computer and start over. The time it takes to do that will almost certainly be less than the time it takes to try to surgically remove the virus. And when it’s all over, wiping the computer is the only way to make sure the virus is really gone.