Computer viruses and malware are programs meant to destroy files, steal data or exploit a computer’s resources without the owner’s consent.
Your computer can acquire viruses or malware through numerous avenues. Viruses are most commonly spread through emails, advertisements, links, phishing and removable media.
To minimize chances of your computer being infected, you will need to adhere to safe computing practices. Here are some.
Be Cautious with emails
Most hackers and spammers prefer email as the primary channel of virus propagation because of how easy it is to dupe users.
They disguise the viruses as attachments or links to websites with the malware. For this reason, you need to exercise caution when opening email attachments from unknown addresses.
Don’t click on suspicious Ads
Advertisements with malicious code or links to harmful websites are another popular avenue for virus propagation.
The advertisements may appear as pop-ups of dating services or lotteries. They can also appear in gaming applications’ interfaces.
To stay safe, avoid clicking on random advertisements, especially when they are not from reputable companies.
Ignore suspicious Links
Links can be embedded in photos, web pages, ads or in email messages. When reading a web page, you may need to avoid clicking on advertising links.
Run for the hills if you click on a link to read an article and it prompts you download a file.
Enter the correct URL
Some hackers will recreate the home pages or login pages of popular websites to entice unsuspecting users.
Once you enter your username and password, the details are relayed to the page’s creators. They can then use the details to carry out a number of unauthorised activities.
To minimize chances of falling victim, carefully type the web address of the site you want to visit; some phishing websites deliberately use misspelt URLs to catch their prey.
Additionally, the recreated page may have inconsistencies such as colours, font or logos that appear off. You can also bookmark websites you regularly use to avoid mistakenly entering the wrong web address.
Be selective with removable media
An infected computer can easily pass virus or malware to removable media, such as thumb drives (flash disks), memory cards or external hard drives.
Do not insert just any remove bale media you stumble upon. Ensure you have an anti-virus program that automatically scans removable media before you can open any file in it.
Install an Anti-virus Program
There numerous anti-virus programs that you can get confused on which to trust or not. As rule of thumb, go for popular ones with good reviews, such as Kaspersky, Avast, AVG or Malwarebytes.
Free anti-virus programs can be as effective as the paid versions. The main difference is that paid versions have extra features such ad-free use, real-time browser protection among others.
If one of your computers is infected, you are better off not sharing files in it with other computers until you are certain you have taken care of the virus.