When I was a teen, I used to play Pac-Man. What fun it was to dodge and dart around the maze gobbling up points while trying to escape the clutches of the “monster guys,” who were intent on devouring Pac-Man and causing an end to the game.

The winter months remind me a little of playing Pac-Man with the exception the ‘monster guys’ are friends, family members and colleagues who I desperately try to avoid at certain times ­­– when they have a cold or virus.

With their puffy eyes; red, runny, swollen noses; horse voices and just general lethargic demeanor, it’s quite obvious to tell who does and who doesn’t have some kind of cold virus.

And when someone gets a cold there are plenty of over the counter remedies to combat it.

Since its cold season, it’s a good time to think about the other viruses that may be lurking around.

The ones you don’t even have a clue about.

And it could be on something you use on a day-to-day basis and much more harmful than any case of the sniffles or sneezes you may get.

I am talking about computer viruses. And just like Pac-Man could gobble up all those points and the monster guys could destroy Pac-Man – computer viruses can do the same thing – devour your information and steal priceless information.

Just like most of us know what signs to look for when it comes to the common cold or other viruses, there are clues that tell us our computer may have a virus too.

Here are six things to look for:

  1. Just like we take precautions not to get a cold or the flu, we need to take the same care with our computers. Make sure your computer has a security program that fights viruses, spyware, worms, Trojans – basically any malwares. Just remember if you look the front door, a thief will look for an open window, garage door or another point of entrance. The same is true for computer hacks. Just like picking a good doctor is important for your health, select a good computer expert to take care of your computer needs.
  2. You have opening programs or programs are running slowly
  3. Pop-up ads – There are computer programs to block pop up ads. If you see ones springing up, good chance you have a virus.
  4. Friends, family and colleagues receive notes that you didn’t send. The goal of a virus is to spread and cause as much havoc as possible. A hacker could use your computer as starting point to infect other computers. The best way to do that is by sending notes from your email, Facebook or even Twitter account. Be sure to check your email’s sent folder to see if anyone is sending messages. If you see some, good chance you have been hacked.
  5. Sometimes hackers like to show off their skills. You may be surfing the net and receive a message that your computer has been kidnapped. Or it may be a hacker claiming he is with law enforcement. What’s happening is a virus is blocking your computer’s programs. The scammer will tell you if you pay a ransom – called ransomware – you can get your computer programs back. It’s not true. If this ever happens, turn off your computer and get professional help.
  6. You turn on your computer and nothing works. Just a black screen. Again – this is a time to seek professional help. The winter months are also the time when we have to start preparing our taxes. Before you send anything electronically to your tax accountant or even a government agency, make sure your computer has a good check-up. While the common cold will leave your feeling miserable for a few days, it eventually goes away. If a computer hacker steals your information, that’s a problem that takes a long time to fix.


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