How to avoid computer infection while working with low-bandwidth/high rates of computer infection

Sitting in a Monitoring and Evaluation training at the Infectious Disease Institute in Kampala, I start typing up our group work on my computer. Being a fast typist, I knew this would be my contribution to the group as my fellow group members were M&E officers, statisticians, data managers and project managers. Mid-career Ugandan professionals. My ego was boosted by Margaret, my group mate’s unceasing compliments. Feeling confident, I grabbed her USB drive and unthinkingly plugged it into my computer to copy over the final draft.


My computer was infected. I know better, being semi-seasoned sensitized at IT in international travel, but was inspired to draft some rules:

#1 Download Spybot (and I’m not the only one who says so)

The most comprehensive and international of all virus scanners that I’ve met. Go here. Select a Mirror. If you didn’t do it before you left the comfort of your big bandwidth environment, do it now and run it now.

  • Update Spybot regularly!

#2 USB risks

  • Male to female transmission: Just inserting a USB is a risk.  You plug in the drive and anything on the drive can be copied over without you even knowing.  Never, ever, set your computer to open this drive automatically.  However, don’t be too cautious as to not share USBs, you might find work hard to accomplish and collaboration next to impossible.  If you have an antivirus that scans foreign hardware, use it, every time.  You can right click on the icon for your USB and select “Scan” or something similar (depending on your software) before you open the drive.  This will minimize infection.
  • Spybot can be your day after pill, in case there is no autoscan or possible manual scan, scan immediately after you remove the USB.
  • Female to male transmission: Less common but also less readily visible. When you copy something from a potentially infected computer to your USB, you might be bringing more than the new Chris Brown album (he’s still big over here). You won’t be able to tell until you put that USB in another computer and scan it.
  • Clean and scan your USB(s) often!

#3 Online risks

I know everyone thinks they know how to be savvy online. It’s not the late 90’s any more and you’ve stopped downloading random files from random places, opening attachments from people you don’t know, or following links to enhance the size of various body parts. But since arriving, there are 3 problems that I’ve noticed:

  • Facebook posts: Your friend posts something really interesting, maybe a little enticing or shocking, something about pedophilia or shocking sex acts. It looks legit. You’re friend posts a lot of interesting articles. Maybe this will be good….uh oh! Now it’s on your facebook wall and slowly eating away at your (thin) facebook privacy settings.
  • Spybot!
  • Email: Your friend invited you to the newest social networking site, Voovle, or something like that, which is super cool, just sign up! You follow the link, then you readily create and account linked to your e mail….uh oh!
  • Spybot!
  • Websites:  some sites (like can actually give you a virus just be hanging out there a while. These are hard to judge – just be careful especially if it’s a video/audio site with lots of ads.  And if anything gets funky, pop-ups appear, etc…Spybot!
  • Buttons: So you want to download something legit. Let’s say, Spybot. You know it’s clean because you read a bossy blog about how useful it is. But you go to a site and hit a big, bright, neon, maybe flashing, “download” button. …Uh oh. Now you’ve got a lot more than Spybot. Not an easy fix. Go to control panel – add/remove programs and start deleting anything installed on today’s date. Clean that up, run antivirus, restart, repeat as needed.

For safe sharing, collaborating and networking, be smart!  And use protection.


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