Do you want to know how to keep your laptop, tablet, or PC virus-proof? Then here are some handy hints and tips to help keep your computer fighting fit in the face of malware.
Are viruses bad for computers?
In short, yes. Computer viruses, a form of malware, replicate and spread after an initial execution (infection) throughout a computer system and tend to either destroy data, slow down system resources, log keystrokes, and myriad other malicious actions.
The choice of the term "virus" is not accidental. You can liken it to biological viruses that seriously prevent your body from functioning normally. Computer viruses do the same sort of thing, only digitally on your computer.
They replicate relentlessly and damage programs and files alike. The best case is that they slow down your computer, but in the worst case they can completely stop your computer from working.
What are some hints and tips to keep your computer virus-free?
And so, without further ado, here are some handy hints and tips to keep you computer virus-proof, at least as best you can. The following are in no particular order and are far from exhaustive.
1. Check if you actually have anti-virus software, and keep it up to date
This is probably the most important thing you can do to try to keep your computer virus-proof. While it might sound like an obvious move, you'd be surprised how many people don't bother to use one.
With such a healthy market of antivirus software out there, you are, as a consumer, spoilt for choice. You also don't really have an excuse not to grab yourself one.
Some operating systems, like Windows, do come with one built-in but off-the-shelf packages are usually considerably better for online security and protection.
One of the best on the market is the suite of antivirus packages offered by the market veteran McAfee. Long respected in the world of antivirus software, their latest products offer unparalleled protection for your computer.
McAfee currently offers three tiers of antivirus software depending on your needs and the number of devices you wish to protect. Their "Family package" protects up to ten devices and costs $89.95 for a single year's protection.
This is McAfee's bumper package offer, but you can protect fewer devices for lower annual subscriptions. For example, five devices will cost you $59.95, and a single device's annual protection costs a mere $39.95.
Once you've chosen an anti-virus software, make sure you keep it updated regularly to ensure your computer is protected from the latest internet nasties.
2. If you have a firewall, make sure it's on!
Another common stumbling block that leaves your computer open to cyberattack, is by not activating your firewall. Operating systems, like Windows, have one built-in and is usually enabled by default -- but do check.
Such firewalls tend to work in conjunction with hardware firewalls built into your home broadband's router too.
"Firewalls provide protection against outside cyber attackers by shielding your computer or network from malicious or unnecessary network traffic. Firewalls can also prevent malicious software from accessing a computer or network via the internet." - us-cert.gov.
On Windows, you can check to see if your firewall is on by typing "check firewall" into the start menu and then select "Check firewall status". Three green tick marks mean the firewall is working normally - if not, select each one to turn the firewall on.
3. Try to use the latest version of a web browser
Another handy tip to keep you computer virus-free is to use the latest version of a web browser. Like any software, browsers can contain bugs that can be exploited by hackers to gain access to your sensitive information.
Once this has happened, a hacker can monitor everything you do including accessing your passwords and credit card numbers, etc. For this reason, among others, it is always advisable to get the latest version to ensure these bugs have been addressed.
But, it should be noted, that most modern browsers, like Google Chrome, will automatically do this for you.
4. Keep your operating system up to date (where applicable)
While you are less at risk with macOS and Linux operating systems, Windows is often a prime target for hackers to attempt to bypass its in-built security features. Windows is one of the most popular OS' for private users and businesses, and this is the main reason it updates so regularly.
These are usually installed automatically but only if this feature is activated and properly configured. If you have upgraded to Windows 10, auto-updates will be set as standard and can not be turned off.
Yes, it is annoying at times, but rest assured it is to keep you safe and sound. Of course, if you are really concerned about the vulnerability of Windows, you could consider switching gears to another operating system?
5. Get phishing-smart
Another common way that viruses and other malware get into your computer is via phishing, especially phishing emails. Most are usually pretty easy to spot, but some can be very sophisticated and may even appear to be from a recognizable online service provider asking you for your personal information.
The vast majority should be caught by your email applications spam filter, but the odd one will get through from time to time. The most up to date browsers should also warn you if you do click on any links within the email -- not to mention your antivirus software (like McAfee's excellent range of packages).
However, any anti-phishing techniques are not foolproof. That is why you should always remain vigilant.
According to Microsoft, almost half of all viral infections to their user's computers occur because they clicked on fishy links in emails.
6. Keep your wits about you online
One of the easiest ways to infect your computer with a virus, spyware, or other malware is by visiting fishy websites. If you use Google Chrome or have a high-quality antivirus software like McAfee installed, you should be warned if you accidentally do.
However, some telltale signs that the site is not to be trusted is that it may ask if it can scan your computer for viruses. If this happens, leave the site immediately.
Another tip is to never install any software from a website unless you know exactly what is it for and you requested it to be installed. Some websites will load malicious software under the pretense of allowing you to do this or that, like watching a movie, for example.
Always be wary of installing free games that you have found randomly on the web and also be cautious of BitTorrent sites and applications.
7. Always consider using a VPN alongside you antivirus software
Another great tip is to consider using a VPN. While they are not an alternative to antivirus software, they work as a great companion to them.
You can liken the difference to an antivirus being like your computer's shield and armor against malicious software, and a VPN acting like its camouflage. Afterall, nefarious agents (including spying agencies) can't harm or track what they can't find. Good VPNs allow you to surf the internet anonymously by using something called tunneling to not only conceal your IP but also encapsulate and encrypt your data.
This not only allows you to bypass governmental bans on sites but also prevents undesirables from learning about your identity or harvesting your data. Good quality VPNs also come with built-in high-end security measures including kill switches that cut off your internet connection should a potential hack occur.
Many also come with additional anti-malware measures, like your antivirus software too. Conveniently, some of the best antivirus software on the market, like McAfee, also comes with a VPN (so long as you opt-in to autorenewal) to give you the very best of both worlds.
And that's a wrap. These simple, yet effective hints and tips will keep you, your data, and computer as virus-proof as you can possibly be.
Save permanently disconnecting your computer from the internet altogether, of course.