stop-malwareBeing a computer consultant, I receive a lot of calls by my clients and friends or family to help them with a virus problem. In these instances, we can almost always get the virus removed. However, removing a virus can be a real time waster and expensive. One of odd things about this is that I rarely, if ever, have to remove viruses from any of my personal computers. It’s not that I’m using some super secret program or anything.  I am able to avoid getting a computer virus because I follow a few simple steps to minimize my chances of getting infected.  Listed below are the top ways to prevent your computer from getting infected by malware.

1. Install a Good Antivirus Software and Keep it Up to Date

If you don’t have antivirus software installed, then you need to get on this right away. I personally don’t use or recommend using a free antivirus. I believe many of the free anti-virus software packages are pretty good. But if you are not careful you may install a free antivirus that lacks some key functionality such as automatic updates, daily scanning or real-time protection that leaves you vulnerable. The second part of this is that you need to keep this software up to date. Most good antivirus software will automatically update themselves. However, it is a good idea to check that this is happening. When it comes to scanning, it is a good idea to scan every day. All the top paid antivirus programs will allow you to schedule daily scans and provide real-time protection to help prevent problems.  By keeping your virus protection software up to date and by scanning often, you can make sure you catch any threats before they can wreak havoc on your PC.

2. Install Malwarebytes

Many computer users mistakenly believe that a single antivirus program with integrated spyware protection provides sufficient safeguards from adware and spyware. Others think free anti-spyware applications, combined with an antivirus utility, deliver capable protection from the skyrocketing number of spyware threats.

That’s simply not the case.  In a perfect world you would have both a paid antivirus (or better yet a internet security suite) and a commercial grade antispyware software installed for maximum effectiveness.  However if you are on a tight budget and who isn’t now a days, I recommend the free version of Malwarebytes.

If you haven’t heard about Malwarebytes, click the link for more information and better yet download and install it on your PC.  It’s free after all.  Most people I talk to don’t know about Malwarebytes. Malwarebytes specializes in finding and removing malware with little effort. Malwarebytes is often able to find and remove malware that my primary virus protection software isn’t even able to detect. Personally, I use the free version of Malwarebytes. It is pretty inexpensive and provides a great service. I love Malwarebytes so much I wrote a detailed article on it.  BUT you have to be sure that you take the time to run scans at least weekly or the program will do you no good just sitting dormant on your computer.

3. Be Careful When Opening and Clicking Links Within Emails

email-virus

It’s a mantra most every Windows user has heard repeatedly: Don’t click on email links or attachments. Yet users frequently fail to heed the warning.. Opening a bad attachment or directly clicking on a virus in an email are two really common ways to get a virus. There are quite a few ways to avoid this. First, be really careful opening emails that have attachments from people you don’t know. Second, if you open an email, you don’t recognize the sender, and the email itself doesn’t make any sense, don’t click on any of the links in the email. In this case, it is best to just delete the email and move on. Last, if you are not with a solid email provider like GMail, Yahoo Mail, etc, then you may want to think about switching. These services do a great job of filtering out any viruses before they even get to your inbox.

4. Be Careful When Browsing the Internet

gcpc safe browsingAnother really common place to get a virus is from a bad website. We have all been there, we have clicked on a link or a result in Google search and we end up at a website that just doesn’t look trustworthy. These bad sites will often have a number of popups, try to get you to download files, and won’t even let you click the back button. In most cases, you are still OK. However, what you do next may determine if you get a virus or not.

First, see if you can go back or even see if you can close out the browser window. If it doesn’t let you, you can try to close any popups or notifications using the “X” or the cancel button. If you still can’t get away from the bad site, you can use the task manager by pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL to manually close your browser task. The big key here is that you don’t download and install anything. Most browsers today will ask if you are sure that you want to continue with a download. This is where you make your last stand against the virus.

Next, it is best to avoid certain types of sites. First of all, it is recommended that you avoid public torrent sites. These are well-known virus farms. You also want to be careful around any type of adult sites or any low quality streaming sites. I am not talking about YouTube. I am talking about sites that stream a specific TV show or channel illegally. These types of sites can contain malware as well.

One last thing to look out for when browsing is fake “download”, “play now”, “play”, etc buttons. (Image courtesy of PCWorld) fake-download-button

Be really careful around these. Keep an eye out for these on sites that you particularly don’t trust. Also, while on the topic, don’t fall for the “Your computer is infected” ads or popups. These are usually a trick to get you to download a virus. If you see one of these and you are unsure, close it, then open up your virus protection software and run a scan. This will tell you if you are truly infected or not.

5. Be Careful When Downloading Programs or Files

There are many times when you really just need to download a program or file from the Internet. If you do this correctly, then there is no issue. However, the key here is that when you download something, make sure it is from a trusted source. Downloading software directly from the software manufacturers website is one good tip. For example, if you need to download iTunes, download it from Apple itself, not some third party distributor. The only time you should download from a third party site is when the site itself links to the third party site for the download.

6. Install and Use a Firewall

This is a basic rule that all computer users need to understand. Although the use of a firewall is not that effective for internet worms, it is still vital when fighting infection from the user’s own network. It will provide better control over the moves of the computer both in and out.

7. Disable Autorun

Many viruses work by attaching themselves to a drive and automatically installing themselves on any other media connected to the system. As a result, connecting any network drives, external hard disks, or even thumb drives to a system can result in the automatic propagation of such threats.

Computer users can disable the Windows autorun feature by following Microsoft’s recommendations, which differ by operating system. Microsoft Knowledge Base articles 967715 and 967940 are frequently referenced for this purpose.

8. Install Updates

Making sure your computer is updated with the latest security patches and software updates goes a long way in helping to preventing malware.  Be sure to check to see if your computer is set to automatically install updates. To learn how to configure automatic updates visit Microsoft’s site.

9. Clear Your Internet Cache and History

empty trashMost browsers store information about the websites you visit, and information that websites might ask you to provide (such as your name and address). While it can be helpful to have these details stored on your computer, there are times when you might want to delete some or all of them, for example when you’re using a public computer and don’t want to leave personal information behind. To learn how to clean up your history in Internet Explorer visit this link.
By following the tips and advice above, hopefully you will never get a virus again.  But if you need help, be sure to contact us!