How to avoid malware and viruses

What is malware/virus – and how does it get on the computer?Malware is short for malicious software and includes viruses, spyware, scareware and similar programs installed on your computer that is installed without your consent or knowledge. Most malware mimics legitimate software in an attempt to get you to purchase something and divulge your credit card information. Malware usually comes from 3 main sources:

  • Malware can come as an e-mail attachment such as a file with an .exe or .zip attachment that you are not expecting to receive.
  • You can be tricked into installing malware from an infected web site that you go to via a link in an e-mail.
  • Malware can be installed automatically or via prompt if you unintentionally go to an infected website. Such web sites are usually unfamiliar, lesser-known web sites that you may find by doing a web search.

How do I avoid getting viruses and malware? No security software is going to protect you from all viruses and malware. Changing your behavior is your best defense:

  • If you get a pop-up window from an unknown program telling you that there are multiple problems with your computer, immediately turn off or restart your computer and see if the program returns after your computer is back on. Other buttons that say “No” or “Cancel” and even the red “X” in the upper right corner of the box are often are used to trick you into downloading or installing a malicious program without your consent.
  • Only download or purchase programs from trustworthy websites or retailers – they are generally safe and don’t distribute programs containing spyware or viruses.
  • Avoid unfamiliar free downloads such as music and file-sharing programs, screen savers, smileys and even fake Spyware detection programs. The program may be free, but in order to make money the programs often include other malware programs to sell information and get paid by advertisers. These malware programs track information about the internet sites you visit, launch pop-up ads, add search toolbars, change your browser homepage and spy on the things you do on your computer – causing a slowdown in computer performance and a security risk.
  • When installing programs, don’t click “next” on each prompt without thoroughly reading and understanding each stage of the installation. Uncheck any optional search toolbars that are often bundled with legitimate software.
  • Install Windows Critical Updates and Internet Browser updates when prompted as soon as possible. Many of these patches fix security vulnerabilities that allow malicious programs onto your computer without your consent. Also install updates for other programs that are used by your web browser such as Java, Adobe Reader and Flash Player.
  • If in doubt about a particular program, you can do a search on any major internet search site for “[the name of the program]” and “spyware” together in a search phrase and see if you get results that show of other people who have had problems with that program installing spyware.
  • Consider using an alternative internet browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome, which aren’t as susceptible as Internet Explorer is to getting viruses or spyware through malicious websites.
  • Don’t click on links in e-mail messages unless you are sure the link will take you to a non-malicious website. For example, forwarded jokes and other non-commercial messages may contain links to malicious websites.
  • Don’t open “executable” e-mail attachments that you are not expecting, or e-mails that are uncharacteristic of the person sending it. Executable attachments include, but are not limited to, the following file extensions: .exe, .pif, .scr, .zip, .vbs, .cpl, etc. If in doubt, call the person who sent you the e-mail attachment and make sure they sent you the message. Some viruses spoof the e-mail address of the sender – so an e-mail may not really be from whom it says.
  • If you see something on the internet that sounds fishy or too good to be true – it probably is. Lots of scammers are using the internet to get into people’s homes and wallets to make money.

If I have an anti-virus program installed, how can I still get a virus and malware? New viruses are unleashed daily. If you currently have an Anti-Virus program installed, it needs to check for virus updates daily by downloading new virus database files from the internet. Many commercial Anti-Virus programs need to be registered and require an annual subscription to keep your virus database files up-to-date. If your Anti-Virus program has an old virus database, it won’t detect any of the newer viruses. Additionally, as part of the destruction of a virus, some viruses attempt to turn off or disable Anti-Virus programs. Unfortunately, no Anti-Virus program detects all viruses. The best Anti-Virus is practicing safe internet and computing habits.

Schedule an appointment with Computer Techs today for the removal of malware/viruses and prevention from future ones.