The bad news about the Net is it's a petri dish for computer viruses that can destroy critical files, even knock your processor into unconsciousness. Every file download exposes you to viruses--and lately evil geniuses have even concocted viruses that hook onto e-mail.
"What the jet plane was for the biological virus, the Internet is for the computer virus," says Rusty DeSantis, a virus expert with McAfee, an anti-virus software company. Viruses aren't just nerd pranks. A recent survey by the National Computer Security Association found that 70 percent of corporate computer networks have been infected--with huge resulting costs in lost productivity and data.
The good news is that prevention is easy and cheap, with the newest anti-viral software upgraded to guard against infection from the Internet. Top choices include Norton Anti-Virus 2.0 (about $70; download a demo at0 http://www.symantec.com) and McAfee's Virusscan Deluxe (about $70; a demo is available at http://www.mcafee.com). Both provide continuous system monitoring and swift virus elimination as well as file repair.
For heavy Net users, there's also McAfee's WebScan (about $29), which integrates into most Web browsers (including Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator). Prevention, not repair, is WebScan's mission--it monitors incoming data, and when it finds suspect files, they're isolated for your later deletion or repair with McAfee's anti-virus feature.
One caveat: McAfee and Norton products don't mix well--if you install both on one machine, crashes are probable. So stick with one company; both McAfee and Norton provide top-grade virus protection.