Are you familiar with how computer viruses get onto your system? What about the various tools that computer hackers use to gain access and record everything you do while on your system? For the average computer user, the prospect of contracting a virus can be rather daunting. However, this is mainly because most people are unfamiliar with the different ways that they can protect their systems and themselves from falling victim to cybercrime.
That brings us to this article, which hopes to provide you with several methods that you can use to protect yourself from these malicious threats.
Keep Your Operating System Up-To-Date
Despite how advanced your operating system may be, it still needs constant updates. This is because computer hackers are constantly looking for new ways to exploit your OS, and once a method has been discovered, it’s up to the OS provider to plug up that vulnerability. If you’re on an older version of Microsoft Windows, for example, you may want to consider the upgrade, as the latest Windows 10 iterations are designed to keep you protected from the vast majority of threats.
Microsoft are constantly pushing out new patches that are designed to fix the latest malware threats and vulnerabilities. However, for those on older operating systems, namely Windows 7, they may find that they no longer receive updates from Microsoft, as they have phased out free updates on almost all of their older operating systems. This puts you at an increased risk of contracting a virus.
So if you haven’t done it yet, I suggest you go ahead and do it now. Set aside some time, as an OS upgrade can take at least 1 – 2 hours to complete. You may also want to backup any programs and documents you have on your system before the upgrade process.
Whatever you choose to do, just be sure not to put it off too long, as the longer you take, the more you run the risk of being infected.
Avoid Dubious Web Sites
There are almost an unlimited number of web pages on the internet right now. The average individual spends a considerable amount of time surfing the internet, shopping, researching and communicating with other people on the net. All of these tasks require the user to visit different websites and web pages. While, the latest web browsers have ways of determining whether or not a website is legitimate, hackers have devised ways of getting around this detection.
At a glance almost every website on the internet seems legitimate. Even for the most seasoned computer user, it may take them some time to figure it out. There are several things for you to look out for. Such as, the URL. It should have what resembles an authentic domain name. You also want to verify the site with other sources. Another good thing to look out for is the https:// you want to ensure it is a secure website. SSL comes as standard with almost every hosting provider today, so if the site doesn’t have the S, then that’s a good indication it could be a malicious website.
Use Strong Passwords
Another very simple step that you can take to keep you and yourself free of spyware and viruses, is to use strong passwords – something, a lot of people neglect to do. You want a unique password for every account that you sign up to. A strong password is at least 7 characters long that combines both upper and lower case letters, along with symbols numbers and special characters, if supported.
You don’t want to use something personal, like your name or the name of a family member, as this can be easily guessed. You also want to stay away from birthdays. Additionally, you want to update your passwords, every couple of months. If you find the whole task of creating unique passwords and constantly updating them for all your different accounts daunting, then you should invest in a password management tool.
Use an Antimalware Tool
Antivirus tools are very important, which is why you want to invest in one. However, despite the efficiency of these tools, there’s always the possibility of at least one virus slipping through the cracks. You want to minimise the chance of a loose virus getting onto your system and/or network and spreading across them, to do this you should combine antivirus scans with antimalware scans. Antimalware tools are relatively cheap, and in some cases, free of charge, and work perfectly in conjunction with your antivirus scanner.
Antimalware scanners differ from antivirus scanners in that they usually need to be opened and run manually, and rarely offer real-time scanning. Although there are some starting to offer that feature.
Scan Your Email Attachments
One of the most common and oldest ways of virus infections and the one method that made the spread of viruses so notable and notorious has to be through email attachments. A virus gets onto a computer, then uses the email client software to send an email to all the contacts on the contact lists. And because the receiver is familiar with the sender, they immediately open and download the attachment, and before they know it, their system too has been infected – and the cycle continues.
To protect yourself from this, you’ll want to have an antivirus scanner that is capable of email scanning. That way, it will scan your attachments the moment you open the email and tell you whether or not it’s safe to download.
Many email client services have built in antivirus protection, however the email client software installed on your system will require a third-party scanner to scan the attachments beforehand.
Don’t Miss the Small Print
Most people neglect to read the fine print. This is because the user agreements can be very long and tedious to read. Most service providers are totally aware of this and use this reality to their advantage. However, taking the painstaking time, regardless of how long it is, to read through all of it, could be just what you need to protect yourself from potentially being infected with a malicious file.
So, make a habit of going through the privacy statements and licensing agreements before making a commitment to anything. You want to be on the lookout for anything on data sharing. Make sure you don’t consent to any of that if you’re unwilling.
Uchenna Ani-Okoye is a former IT Manager who now runs his own computer support website https://www.compuchenna.co.uk.