Operating systems like Windows are getting better and better at providing built in virus protection. A very careful user can even get away without Anti-virus software, but only if they really know what they are doing. At the same time a greater diversity in platforms and operating systems gives hackers and fraudsters a broader range of opportunities for attack.
Hex dump of the Blaster worm, showing a message left for Microsoft CEO Bill Gates by the worm programmer
Here are ten helpful hints you should follow to keep your computer and your personal information safe:
Develop better browsing habits
Good web browsing habits are the best way to keep your computer safe and secure. The most likely source of viruses for your computer is unfortunately the internet. It is important to pay attention to files and programs you download as well as the links you click on.
Be Careful Who you Give your Computer To
One of the useful things about laptops is that they can be moved around and shared easily. You might feel good about lending your laptop to a friend in need but if they have bad browsing habits you could end up with a nasty virus on your hard drive.
Even worse, if it’s someone you don’t know very well they could easily put key-logging software on your computer, giving them access to all of your online passwords and information.
Make sure you only let people you trust use your computer.
Logging on to open Wi-Fi signals
Particularly when we are using laptops and other portable devices out an about we have the tendency to just log on to the first open WiFi signal available. What you think is your favourite coffee shop’s open signal might actually be a hotspot set up from a local device. This means you could easily be giving someone full access to your laptop or smartphone.
Check with staff what the local WiFi connection is called and whatever you do, never use your credit card info for shopping or banking over a public network.
Keep your OS Updated
Modern Operating Systems include important security features in their updates. It can be annoying to have to wait for your computer to update and restart but it is worth the few minutes of inconvenience to ensure your computer’s long term safety.
Use a Firewall
If your OS doesn’t have one pre-installed makes sure to download one and turn it on. A Firewall prevents unauthorized access to your device by restricting the number of open ports. When you are buying a wireless router, make sure it comes with a Firewall too.
Be careful what you Download
There are lots of times when you will have to download drivers and other files for various devices for your computer. Always be sure that you are downloading these files from the official site of the manufacturer.
Watch for Suspicious Emails
Email scams are getting ever more sophisticated and dealing with the normal influx of legitimate emails is difficult enough. It can be all too easy to open up an email and find yourself replying to something that looks legitimate but is actually an elaborate scam.
You should also be sure to only download files that you expected to get. Even if a friend or colleague sends you a file check with them that they meant to send it to you before opening or downloading it. You never know if their email has been compromised.
Connected Devices and Storage
While wireless and cloud technology has made physical storage devices less common they can still be very useful. Very small and inexpensive SSD drives are particularly handy. They are however an easy way to receive viruses. If you use these devices regularly you should invest in protection software that quarantines devices until they can be scanned for viruses and malware.
Be Extra Careful with P2P File-sharing
P2P is a quick and convenient way to share and download large files. Due to the nature of this type of file-sharing however files are rife with hidden viruses. If you can avoid using P2P altogether that is ideal. If you can’t, you should really scrutinize the file you are downloading. Check to see what comments have said about the file to check if it contains what it claims to or if it is infected.
While it is possible to only rely on Operating Systems’ built in security it is not recommended. A comprehensive software suite from a reputable distributor is a simple, foolproof way to minimize the risk of unwanted viruses and malware ending up on your computer.