8 ways to avoid malware and keep your computer clean
Malware, including viruses, spyware, phishing schemes and all the nasty stuff that messes up your computer, is a major issue for homes and businesses. Billion of dollars are spent each year to repair damage and the end is not in sight, but fortunately there are things you can do to prevent your computer from being compromised.
1. Be very wary of free downloads. While there are many excellent free applications, games, and tools on the Internet, many more are misleading and often harmful. If you find something you'd like to try out, try using a reputable search engine such as Google to do a bit of research first. See what other users had to say about it.
2. Watch the installation process carefully. When you do choose to download and install anything new, don't blindly click Next or OK on every prompt. Even the good downloads can have hidden dangers: toolbars and other unwanted add-ons. Look carefully for check boxes that are pre-checked and read what you are agreeing to when you hit the Accept button. An unwary user can discover they have installed not one, but ten or more programs unwillingly.
3. Pay attention to web addresses. False and misleading search results are another easy way malware finds its way to your device. Often, the first few results on Google and other search engines are not what you think. Before clicking any link, look at the website address it will send you to. If it seems fishy, don't click it. Spend some time considering, and look at the other results as well.
4. Be suspicious of pop-ups. Any browser pop-up or advertisement that tells you your computer is infected and needs a scan is not to be trusted. Do not click on it. Close out of whatever site has this warning as they are all scams. This holds true for those television ads that promise to speed up your computer as well. Never subscribe to those services.
5. Never let anyone you don’t know take control of your computer. I've heard reports of users getting phone calls from companies claiming to be from Microsoft or Norton requesting you grant them remote access to your computer. Hang up. Reputable computer companies would never request this kind of access.
6. Keep your computer updated. Microsoft releases security patches and updates on the second Tuesday of each month that help protect your computer from the latest malware threats. You can have your computer install these updates automatically or you can run it yourself. Just be sure they get in there. Many other software vendors issue updates as well, like Adobe. Always be aware of what software is installed in your computer, and keep it updated.
7. Make sure you have an antivirus program and that it is functioning. There are many good options that are also free to protect your computer such as Microsoft Security Essentials, and Avast. If you are interested in beefier protection, a company called Eset has good solutions.
8. Be aware of how you browse. Most trouble can be avoided entirely by having careful Internet browsing habits. If you have children, put the family computer in a public area of the house. If your teenagers have their own computers, consider filtering and monitoring programs to keep them out of trouble. A filter I recommend is K-9 Web Protection, and you can remotely monitor other computers with a product called VNC.