“It’s just a virus.” That’s what our family doctor calmly said twice in the past two weeks.

Each one of my kids fell prey to the yuckies that have been making their rounds. We thought for sure that one had flu and the other had strep.

Nope. “Just a virus.”

Now, that’s a great diagnosis for a high school junior, hours before her big musical. It’s words of bliss to a middle schooler, the day before his big basketball tournament.

Not so much if you’re on the other end of the conversation with your IT guy, your massive presentation is moments away and your brand new computer won’t boot. Not good at all if you just became Patient Zero among an email list of family and friends that you’ve potentially infected with the electronic version of the zombie apocalypse.

I’m not sure exactly who coined the phrase “computer virus,” but they missed the mark a little. Maybe it should have been “computer plague” or “computer pandemic.” Nah. It just doesn’t have the right ring to it, does it?

In lieu of a great name, the digitized world has given us the term “malware.”

According to Wikipedia, malware is “an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software, including viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware and other malicious programs.”

That voice of your mother saying “cover it” right after you’ve infected the entire room with a massive sneeze comes to mind after reading a definition like this.

But something tells me that the e-version of a simple sneeze into your Dracula-positioned arm isn’t going to do the trick with your computer and its accursed attraction to getting sick. So pass the pixelated Purell, and let’s think this through.

Make sure you have virus protection. It’s almost a given, but it still needs to be said. And, really, you can take out two birds with one stone here (actually, just skip hurting the animals…they need protection, too). One, make sure that you have virus protection installed on your machine. Two, make sure that you have the latest operating system or the latest update for your operating system on your machine.

Use what your IT guy gave ya. It’s one thing to have malware protection on your machine; it’s another thing to have it set up right and working for you. Make sure that you are updating the virus definitions regularly and using your virus protection to scan your computer regularly. You likely can set it and forget it, but do take the time to get it set up right at the outset.

Don’t click; you might get sick. Okay, that was lame. But, honestly, be careful of the links that you follow. If it looks like a strange email, it likely is. If you get a warning not to visit a website, don’t. If you land on a site that seems to be sucking the life right out of your computer right before your eyes, leave it immediately…and then, yes, do an immediate scan.

Finally, back up, back up, back up. We all know the drill, but we also don’t follow our own massive mental warning lights. How many of us could have saved so much stress by having a great backup plan? There’s really not a lot of excuses anymore. Cloud storage is massive and cheap. Find a plan that works for you and make sure that no matter what digital gremlins come your way, you have a way to emerge from your own personal apocalypse with fresh, clean data, ready to colonize your brave new electronic world…or just return that email to Aunt Gertrude without having to reboot five times.


Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC,  is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock.


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