The most recent statistics reveal that malicious cyber activity costs the U.S. an alarming $57-$109 billion a year.
Have you had trouble with constant annoying pop-ups? Then you have at least some personal experience with malicious software.
But computer viruses are sometimes far more than annoying. Some hackers now have ways of taking over your computer’s operating system. In that case, all your sensitive personal information is held for ransom.
Read on for tips on how to prevent computer viruses in 2019.
The Case for Antivirus Software
Some people argue that all computers come with antivirus software installed, so there’s no need to install anything else. But hackers come up with new viruses every day. Sometimes, you might not even realize your computer is infected.
If you own a Windows PC, extra antivirus protection is a must. The majority of personal and business computers run Windows. This makes them a compelling target for hackers.
Apple’s Mac operating system is more robust and harder to hack. There are also fewer Mac users. Thus, hackers don’t target Mac systems as often.
But, the more Macs Apple sells, the more likely hackers will target Macs in the future. If you want to be on the safe side, antivirus software is for everyone.
That being said…
1. Use Quality Antivirus and AntiMalware Protection
There are lots of free antivirus and antimalware programs available. But remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for” when it comes to software.
A free antivirus program might be better than nothing. But free programs are bare bones. They don’t have everything you need to keep your computer free of malicious software.
First, let’s look at a few definitions:
Malware is two words combined: malicious software. Malware is any program installed with malicious intent.
The term virus used to refer to malware. Now it defines programs that self-replicate after hooking into programs running on a Windows system.
Unbeknownst to you, these software programs keep track of your movements for a third party.
They can be somewhat harmless, only keeping track of website visits. But they can also be invasive and harmful, tracking all your keystrokes, including passwords!
This is a download that happens when you stop by an infected website. The website exploits browser weaknesses and holes allowing malware into your computer.
Named after the ancient Trojan war story, this is software that appears harmless but isn’t. Because it appears harmless, you invite it in yourself. Later, you discover it was malware.
Do your research and look for well-reviewed antivirus and antimalware software. Make sure the software auto-updates often.
Experts register as many as 350,000 new viruses every day. So your antivirus software should be updated on an almost daily basis, which leads to the next point…
2. Keep Antivirus Software Current
Make sure you activate automatic updates for your antivirus software. Even with automatic updates, check for updates yourself a few times a week.
Viruses and other malware spread quickly through popular social media sites. It’s important your antivirus software is keeping up.
Make sure you set antivirus software for daily scans as well. Many programs can scan on start-up which is a great option.
If you do get a computer virus, reach out to a reputable computer repair center to troubleshoot your computer.
3. Use Quality Anti-Spyware Protection
Don’t use free anti-spyware programs. They’re not up to the task of keeping your system from prying eyes. When it comes to spyware, you need real-time threat protection.
Free anti-spyware programs are great for detecting the programs once they’re on board. But that doesn’t do you much good. You want a program that detects the spyware before it’s in your computer.
A good anti-spyware subscription detects spyware before it infects your PC. It can also isolate and remove pre-existing spyware programs.
Once you have a good anti-spyware subscription, renew it each year. You’ll get an automatic notice before it expires, so don’t let it lapse!
4. Keep Anti-Spyware Current
The same goes for anti-spyware as any other program you run on your computer. Keep it up to date. Most anti-spyware subscriptions come with automatic updates, so enable this feature.
It’s a good idea to run daily scans as well.
5. Update Your Operating System
Always keep your operating system up to date. This is important for many reasons, not the least of which is avoiding viruses.
The operating system is the major system of your computer. For example, Windows 10 is an operating system. Mac OS X and Linux are other well-known operating systems.
Developers issue security fixes on a regular basis. These fixes and patches keep your operating system safe and secure.
Most operating systems have automatic updates. Enable this feature and check it on a regular basis to make sure it’s working.
6. Secure Your WiFi Connection
Your WiFi connection is a point of access to the network from the Internet. Your personal network is your computer, printer, and other computers and hardware.
It’s not a bad idea to hide your network name. Persistent hackers can still hack into it, but it’s not as detectable. Nearby computer users won’t see the network name broadcast, so they won’t know it’s there.
It’s crucial that your WiFi connection is password protected. Make sure you’re using WPA or WPA2 encryption. And use a strong password.
7. Use Updated Browsers
By now, you’ve got the idea that it’s a good idea to update! While you’re updating your operating system and antivirus programs, update your browser too.
Enable your browser to auto-update. But check now and then and make sure your browser is using the latest version.
Many viruses exploit browsers to download malicious programs onto your computer. Browser updates offer security patches to thwart these programs.
8. Be Careful of Sharing
Good moms teach their kids to share, but be careful. There are lots of free file-sharing services available. Most of them offer pirated software, videos, and music.
It’s tempting for lots of people to get expensive programs for free. But don’t do it — hackers know these sites are tempting too. Along with that free video or music, you’re likely to end up with a serious virus.
That goes for file sharing through flash drives as well. Don’t take a portable flash drive from someone unless you trust them. Beware of external hard drives, CDs, and DVDs.
And watch out for “bonus” software applications when you’re installing new software. Even legitimate software sometimes comes with “bonus” spyware applications.
Whenever you’re installing software, read through the licensing agreement. Make sure you’re not granting the software company access to your personal data.
If the software comes with extra programs you didn’t sign up for, deselect those programs before installing.
9. Watch Out for Emails
Emails are notorious malware and virus vehicles. Be alert and careful about every email you click on.
Email attachments often carry malware and viruses. Never open one from an unknown sender.
If an email looks like spam, delete it without opening it. Never click on links directly from an email.
Phishing scams are increasing in sophistication. There are even emails that look like they’ve come from your bank.
If you receive an unsolicited email asking you to click on a link to reset a password, never click on the link. If you suspect a problem, call your bank or access its website from a new browser tab.
If you’re calling your bank in response to an email, call the number on the back of your credit card. Some Google searches reveal phony bank numbers for well-known institutions!
Be smart and careful when it comes to opening email.
And speaking of email…
10. Disable Image Previews
If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, disable the image preview option. Even if you don’t click on the email to open it, it can still infect your computer in the image preview.
Newer versions of Outlook come with the image preview disabled. But if yours is enabled, turn it off.
11. Smart Surfing
Always enable pop-up blockers in your browser. This keeps a lot of drive-by malware off your computer.
If a pop-up window does get through, never click on it.
Many pop-up windows are urgent alerts that your computer is infected with a virus. But they’re a scam.
They want you to click on the link for a “free” virus check. If you click on the link, you’ll end up with a virus.
When you’re surfing, never fill out any forms or give away any personal info on a page that popped up on its own. If you’re shopping, check to make sure you’re on a secure page before entering any personal information.
How do you know you’re on a secure page? There should be an “s” at the end of the “http” in the URL. Or there’s a lock at the top of the page.
12. Keep Personal Information Private
Hackers are smart. They don’t always break into your computer to find your personal information. They often use social engineering.
That’s when a hacker looks through as much of your public information as they can. They use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other sites to find out lots of personal details.
When you’re using social media, don’t freely give information such as your mother’s maiden name. Be careful about what sort of personal information you’re putting in cyberspace.
Use the tightest privacy settings possible on your social media accounts.
13. Never Use Starbucks’ WiFi
Never use free WiFi when you’re in Starbucks or any other public place. Libraries, airports, and hotels are all places hackers love.
They can easily capture any password you type while you’re on open WiFi. If the network doesn’t require a password, don’t use it.
And don’t use a network that has a password written down for everyone to see. The hackers can see it too!
If working in public can’t be avoided, use a virtual private network (VPN). If you’re working on personal documents in public, it’s a good idea to disable WiFi.
14. Disable Autorun
Viruses are built to replicate themselves. If a virus is on your drive, it might be automatically installing itself on any media connected to the system.
That means anytime someone uses a flash drive or external drive, the virus takes advantage of autorun.
If you disable autorun on Windows, that’ll stop some viruses from spreading. You can find instructions for disabling autorun on the Microsoft Knowledge Base.
15. Use Strong Passwords
You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating. Always use strong passwords. Don’t use your birthdate, maiden name, or easy phrases.
Use combinations of words, letters, and special characters as well as some uppercase letters and some lowercase. Don’t make it easy for hackers. The harder it is, the more likely the hackers will move to another target.
It’s Important to Know How to Prevent Computer Viruses
In today’s world, you need to know how to prevent computer viruses. It’s not enough to assume your antivirus programs will do it all for you.
You need quality antivirus software as well as anti-spyware.
Make sure your software programs are always up to date by enabling automatic updates and scans. But check on a regular basis and make sure the automatic updates are working.
If the software allows it, scan for viruses on bootup.
Make sure your operating systems and browsers have the latest versions installed.
As a rule, don’t use flash drives or external hard drives from anyone other than a trusted source. Even a trusted source can unknowingly pass a virus. Make sure your antivirus software is set up to scan external sources.
Never download free programs, music, or videos from the file-sharing sites.
Be extra cautious when it comes to opening your emails. Never download an attachment if you don’t know who the sender is.
Remember to disable image previews in Microsoft Outlook.
Keep your personal information private, and avoid using public WiFi. Always use strong passwords.
Follow these tips to keep your computer safe from hackers and other Internet threats.
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