I often receive a lot of questions asking me about PC security and how to prevent virus attacks on computers. So, I have decided to write this article to teach you about the best practices to ensure that your computer remains healthy and virus free.
I assume that a lot of you already know about how dangerous these computer viruses are. These threats have evolved overtime with the advancements in technology and computing.
Install the best Antivirus Software
The computer security market is filled with many security products that offer to prevent virus attacks on your PC. While I do not intend to endorse them, some products like Avira, AVG, Kaspersky are truly remarkable when it comes to protecting your PC. These antivirus software are constantly being updated to prevent any latest malware or threats from attacking your computer.
Most of these antivirus products require you to purchase a license key to activate the software, but they also offer the much needed basic version of their software which you may use for free. I have been personally using the free version of Avira Antivirus software for the past one year and never once faced any threats or virus attacks on my PC.
There are also many free security products which you can download, including Microsoft Security Essentials, which you can download through the “Software Update” feature on Windows 7 OS.
There is also a myth that your PC performance goes down once you install an antivirus software. This generally doesn’t happen unless you install two different antivirus products.
So, make sure that you have only one antivirus running on your PC!
Update your Antivirus Software regularly
New viruses and threats keep popping up everyday. You can’t deny the fact that they keep getting better each day. Attackers are constantly evolving and developing newer ways and innovative techniques to bypass and breach the antivirus products in order to exploit your PC.
This requires the Antivirus software companies to be update their products regularly with the latest ‘virus definitions’. All the security product suites will download newer ‘virus definitions’ whenever possible. These definitions are nothing but a list latest recorded viruses and threats that need to be blocked.
Check your antivirus everyday to see if there are any updates and download them to make sure that you are protected from the latest threats which may attack your computer.
Run regular scans
Once you download and install any antivirus software, it will be set to run automatic scans on your PC at a predefined time everyday.
It sometimes happens that you download some programs or executable files after the scan and your antivirus might not detect a potential threat because it wasn’t updated recently. So, I suggest you to run a full PC scan every time you update the antivirus software.
Be careful the first time to stay safe the next time!
I also recommend you to run a manual quick scan of your PC once every few days.
Be careful with random pop-ups
Many attackers often design pop-ups which resemble the genuine ones from your antivirus manufacturer, Microsoft etc. These look exactly like a legitimate warning message which you see on Windows.
Their intention behind this is to fool you and make you click on the install button. These pop-ups generally contain a warning message asking you to install a software or warning you that your PC is under the risk of getting attacked.
Often times when you see such pop-ups, be assured that you are in no threat whatsoever. The threat or virus comes in only when you click on the ad or message thinking that it’s a real time warning from Windows. You would be then taken to a web page that prompts you to install a free software or an update file to your current software. The attacker includes executable scripts, automatic key loggers or malicious .exe files or ransomware in the software that you download from that webpage.
Most newer web browsers will be able to stop these ads and popups from appearing. But you may want to consider installing a pop-up blocking extensions on your browser if upgrading your web browser doesn’t solve this issue.
Phishing email scam
Much like the disguised pop-ups that prompt you to download malicious files, phishing scams are intended to extract your banking information and passwords.
A few days ago I found this in my spam. The sender tried his best to make it sound official; however, I had a good laugh about that dimwit!
Your email provider will be able to mark all such emails as spam, but sometimes a professional looking email might land into your inbox! So be careful before handing out any personal information or banking details over emails. Always make it a point to check the sender’s email. It is unlikely that your banker will be sending emails from his personal mail address.
Also make sure to check for typographical errors in the web address when you are asked to enter your banking details on a webpage that looks exactly like the legitimate one. For example, lets assume that your banker is Bank of America whose web address is https://www(.)bankofamerica(.)com. So if your receive an email asking your to enter some details on http://www(.)bankfoamerica(.)com, where the web page would be similar to the one on the official BOFA site. So, always pay attention when giving out personal details over the internet.
Use the Windows Firewall
The firewall on your PC is another type of security feature which stops unauthorized access to your computer from sources on the Internet.
Your computer has hundreds of ports that let other devices to connect to your PC remotely. The firewall prevents unauthorized attempts to connect to these ports. So, basically the firewall prevents attackers from connecting to your PC remotely and damaging it.
If you ever find yourself in a position where a software program or game wouldn’t work when the firewall is turned ON, then you may either turn it OFF temporarily or add an exception for the required program to bypass the firewall settings.
From Windows XP onwards, the firewall software has been packaged with the Operating System software. In the latest Windows 7, 8 and 10 OS, the firewall is automatically turned ON to prevent unknown remote access to your PCs.
Put your Common Sense to work
Always use your reasoning and common sense while downloading or installing unknown softwares or executable files on your PC. Scan all the downloaded file packages with your antivirus. You will be surprised to know how many people get fooled online and unknowingly install viruses on their PCs or easily get duped into the phishing scam emails.
Finally here are a few pointers to protect your computer and to stay safe online.
- Never trust any pop up that says you have a virus on your PC or you are under a threat. Confirm it by scanning your computer with the antivirus program.
- Never follow the links on emails that resemble to be from your bank. Be wary of giving out any account information via emails or on forms linked on the phishing emails. Always remember that your bank will never ask for your banking details over emails!
- Do not call up any premium rate phone numbers or toll free numbers that are included in pop-ups messages or phishing emails.
- The silly one! Sorry to burst your bubble but, there is no Nigerian prince that is planning to send you money or there is no money sitting in an unknown foreign bank, waiting for you to inherit.
- Never follow emails that you receive from unknown sources. If something looks suspicious then click on the ‘spam’ button and move on!