Malware programs have been around for decades and have continuously evolved.
Some viruses and malware are simply designed to destroy your computer, which can require expensive repairs or even a full replacement. Others are aimed at gathering your personal data. Besides violating your privacy, data harvesting can expose your confidential information about health, finances, and other matters, making you vulnerable to identity theft.
Being tech-literate doesn’t just mean knowing how to use your computer, but also knowing how to protect it. Fortunately, anti-malware technology has kept pace with malware evolution, and there are many ways to defend yourself from viruses and malware.
- Install Anti-Virus Software
The most basic step to preventing malware attacks is installing antivirus software on your device. Many users neglect this primary step. There are several reputable antivirus brands on the market that offer a wide variety of features and integration options. Sorting through the options also means figuring out subscription fees, determining how much pressure from the anti-malware software your system can handle, and more.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the options, you can simply search “computer fix store near me” and find a professional. A certified tech provider can go over your antivirus options with you, safely install the software on your device, and monitor your device’s safety.
- Update Your Software
One of the critical ways viruses and other malware invade your device is by exploiting the weak points in outdated software. Most platforms such as web browsers and operating systems depend on regular updates to protect them from exploits, bugs, and other issues. Developers are constantly working to improve their products, so be sure to avail yourself of their efforts.
If you frequently update all essential software on your desktop or smart device, you can significantly reduce the chances of malware attacks through software exploits.
- Back up Your Data
Regularly backing up your data is a great way to prevent your information from being permanently corrupted or stolen by viruses and other malware. Even if something were to happen to your data, a back-up ensures that you have a preserved version.
Ideally, your data should be stored in three different formats—internally on your computer, on an external drive or network, and a cloud product, like iCloud or Google Drive. While this practice doesn’t keep viruses or malware away from your device, it makes sure that all with not be lost if you do face an attack.
- Use Strong Passwords
A strong password will keep your sensitive information safe from hackers. Most people fall into the pitfall of assuming that a long password is a strong password. That isn’t the case; a strong password contains all primary variables of language: letters, signs, and numbers. Many websites won’t even allow you to create a password that doesn’t include a combination of the three.
If thinking up and remembering complicated passwords isn’t your strong suit, consider using a service like LastPass, which can generate and store secure, complex passwords.
- Be Cautious When Downloading Files
Another critical way viruses and other malware can make their way into your system is through downloads. You may receive a suspicious message and find yourself clicking a link or opening an attachment that initiates a download. Make sure to scrutinize all messages before clicking any links or attachments.
Even more insidious are unauthorized internet downloads, which try to sneak onto your computer unnoticed while you browse through specific inconspicuous triggers such as downloading third-party software. Malware can be downloaded onto your computer through in-browser downloads as well.
To prevent this from occurring, make sure your browser is set to detect unauthorized downloads. Also, set up your antivirus software to scan links before commencing downloads. This utility is a common feature in most reputable antivirus software.
- Conduct Virus Scans
Most modern antivirus software activates as soon as you turn on your device and actively monitors to identify and eliminate viruses and other malware. However, even with this standard feature, there is still a chance malware might slip through the cracks due to inactive security functions. This malware can lay dormant and activate at a later period without detection.
Consider scanning for viruses weekly to ensure no malicious applications have infiltrated your system. Depending on your hard disk size and the nature of the programs and apps installed, conducting a virus scan can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. This can seem inconvenient, but considering the importance of data security and device health, it’s worth it. Think of it as a time to relax and unplug.
- Watch Out for Suspicious Websites and Links
Innocuous-looking links can be dangerous, and many malicious programs are created to make them appear safe. Use common sense when browsing the internet and don’t engage with suspicious-looking websites, software, and links.
Because those who develop malware are continually innovating new ways to trick users, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the best ways to recognize suspicious links. If you’re not sure, there are steps you can take to investigate a link you’re uncertain of before clicking.
Prevention Is Always Worthwhile
Many virus and malware programs are more of a nuisance than a threat. Their negative effects are more likely to manifest in frustrating computer slow-downs than serious data privacy and security breaches. However, an annoyance is still worth preventing, and if you happen to encounter one of the more dangerous iterations, you’ll be ready.