It’s an unfortunate fact of life: the internet is not safe for your computer. Every time you open your browser and visit a website, you’re creating a potential opening for viruses to get in. However, just as you can’t spend your entire life inside the house, cowering at the thought of contracting a disease, you can’t avoid the internet for fear of harming your computer.
The internet is one of the greatest tools of our time. We use it for everything from shopping to creating societal change. In this day and age, it’s simply not feasible to avoid the internet entirely. So, how do you go about protecting your precious computer from the big bad wolf that is Malware?
It’s surprisingly easy!
This guide is mainly for Windows users, as Macintosh and Linux users aren’t at as great a risk because both Mac & Linux tend to be very secure because they are built on secure UNIX systems.
What Is Malware Exactly?
Worst case scenario, some malware can damage your system irreparably, requiring the hard drive to Short for malicious software, malware is a general term that covers computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, adware, and others.
Malware interferes with your computer’s normal operation and gives hackers a chance to gain access to your computer and collect sensitive personal information, such as the sites you visit, the e-mail you send, and the financial records you keep. Furthermore, malware bogs down your computer, causing it to run slowly.
Your computer probably came pre-installed with a subscription based anti-virus software such as Norton or McAfee. Not only do you not need a subscription based software, you don’t even need to spend money on anti-virus software at all!
While there are many free anti-virus programs available, the three most popular are:
- Avast!: Offers anti-malware, anti-spyware & anti-rootkit protection.
- AVG Free: Offers anti-malware protection as well as link protection and securefile deletion.
- Malwarebytes: Offers malware detection and removal, support team, and multi-language functionality.
The best way to protect your system is to periodically run a combination of free anti-spyware programs, as one program can miss spyware the other will detect.
Protecting Yourself While Surfing the Web
Guarding both your computer and yourself while browsing is as easy as using a proper anti-virus program and some common sense. In the past, sites featuring illegal, illicit, or explicit content were responsible for the vast majority of malware on the web. Shockingly, these days you’re far more likely to pick up a virus from a legitimate site that’s been compromised than from anywhere else. Using browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, or Safari will help protect you from malware, as they have built in protection.
When it comes to identity theft, common sense is your best friend. Identity thieves frequently use a tactic known as phishing, in which they send an email that appears to be from a legitimate site –such as eBay, PayPal, or Amazon – and request your credit card information, account number, social security number, etc.Don’t ever reply to these messages. Keep in mind that authentic sites will never ask for this information via email.
Viruses via Email
Malware can easily be spread via email, so it’s important to be mindful of the following things when perusing your inbox:
- Never open email attachments from people you don’t know.
- Unless you’re absolutely certain of what it is and where it came from, be wary of e-mail attachments from people you do know.
- Don’t forward chain letters. Many computer viruses automatically mass send themselves to all the contacts in your address book. This is why you should be cautious even when an e-mail us from someone you know.
- Never reply to spam. This will simply confirm your e-mail address and open the floodgates.
Much like real life, you can protect yourself on the internet by keeping your wits about you and viewing anything even mildly suspicious with a healthy dose of skepticism.
If a man approached you on the street claiming to be a foreign prince who simply needed your bank account information before he could gift you with millions, you’d laugh in his face. Use that same common sense to take down the con-artists who reach out via the internet.
By following these tips, you can protect your vital information, keep your computer safe, and avoid expensive repairs. Happy surfing!