Do you think those basic security features on your computer are enough to provide protection from malware?
If it can happen to billion-dollar businesses, it can happen to you too. As the number of security cyber threats grows, you must know how to prevent computer viruses.
In this post, we’ll reveal 9 vital tips to protect your computer from cyber-attacks. Read on to learn more—your personal and business security depends on it!
1. Use Strong Passwords
Let’s start with the basics—your passwords.
The most commonly used passwords in the cyber world are also the worst. As of 2018, the top 3 passwords in use were:
And people wonder why we have security breaches everywhere? Keep your data safe by creating unique, complex passwords. The best passwords include a mix of numbers, letters, and symbols and are at least 8 characters long. While we’re on the topic, avoid using the same username and password combination across multiple sites. If a hacker can access just one site, you’ve left the door wide open to the rest of your data.
2. Keep Everything up to Date
Another basic step to take is to make sure you have the latest versions of all software installed on your devices. Why is this so important? Because software updates include features designed to withstand the latest security threats. Microsoft, Oracle, and other makers regularly update their software to eliminate “bugs” that hackers could exploit.
If you’re operating a system from 3 years ago, it’s defenseless against any viruses or malware developed in the interim. Make it a habit to install all new software updates as soon as they become available. You can now configure Windows Update to do it automatically so you don’t have to worry about remembering to do it.
3. Use Antivirus Software
Next up on our list of how to prevent computer viruses is—no surprise here—antivirus software.
Antivirus software acts as a “vaccine” against virtual viruses. It can identify and eliminate the threat before you were even aware of it. Microsoft Defender (built into Windows 10) and Avast are both free antivirus programs you can install. There’s also a host of paid options, although experts debate whether the extra cost is really worth it. I recommend using Total AV, it is around $15 for the first year to try it.
4. Use a Firewall
Using antivirus programs doesn’t automatically mean you have a firewall. Macs and PCs both come with pre-installed firewall software. Make sure it’s enabled to provide an extra layer of protection from viruses and malware.
5. Install a Popup Blocker
Many attacks happen through browsers, as you’re going about your daily online routine. Hackers can gain access to your computer from one innocent click on the wrong ad or link. An ad or popup blocker is essential to protecting your computer’s data. It will prevent any unwanted pages from opening automatically. Never click on, open, or download anything unless you know exactly who it’s from. This is especially important with emails, which is our next topic.
6. Beware of Email Phishing Scams
32% of reported security breaches begin with a phishing scam.
These appear in email form under the guise of a legitimate company. The goal is to get you to either enter personal information or click on an infected link that allows access to your computer. Any legitimate company will have its own domain name for emails. If an email address claims to be from Paypal or Netflix but ends with @gmail.com, it’s a scam. Other signs include misspellings, poor grammar, and suspicious attachments, buttons, or links. A legitimate company will never invite you via email to log in and provide personal or billing information
Here’s a good rule to live by—if in doubt, don’t click on it!
7. Educate Your Family & Staff
Most cyber-attacks happen through an innocent action by an uninformed person. This could be a member of your family, a child, or an employee who isn’t aware of smart internet practices. If you have any doubts about anyone who uses your computer, take a few moments to teach them the basics. Review a few points from this post, such as not opening emails or clicking on links from unknown sources. A few moments of education could mean the difference between cyberattack success or failure.
8. Know the Signs of Infection
Despite your best efforts, computer viruses can still happen.
Do you know how to identify a virus on your computer? Here are a few things to watch for:
- Repeated error messages
- Unexpected shutdowns
- Computer suddenly slows down
- Takes too long to shut down or restart
- New toolbars you didn’t install
- Changes to your homepage
- Rapidly draining battery
Any of these signs could mean your computer is infected. If you see more than one of these signs, you almost surely have a virus. Make sure all your software is updated and then perform a scan. You can also search online forums for users who have similar issues and see how they were able to solve them.
9. Consider Additional Security Features
At the very least, you should perform weekly or even daily backups of all important data. Store it securely in the cloud or on a separate hard drive. That way, if you do accidentally get a virus, your vital information won’t be lost or compromised. For extra protection, you might also consider advanced security measures like endpoint security. This protects not just your computer but your network as a whole.
10. Replace that old Router
Sadly, may older routers are no longer updated and can easily be compromised by exploits. When shopping and using that new router, use the WPA-2 encryption as a minimum standard. There’s nothing more useless than a router with no encryption. With the new long distance ranges on routers, people could park in front of your house and log into the router. Next time you are around an apartment building or condo, take your phone and search for WiFi signals. You would be amazed at how many open signals you will find, just don’t connect to them because that could be another security issue.