The internet is an amazing place with an endless bank of entertaining and informative websites. However, it can be surprisingly easy to fall victim to what’s commonly given the blanket name “computer virus” – malware, ransomware and crytoviruses.
Viruses and hackers are ever-evolving their methods to obtain your information, but the good news is there’s a lot you can do to keep your system safe. Here are our top 5 tips to prevent falling victim to computer viruses.
1. Install antivirus/malware software. This speaks for itself. Having antivirus software is a must to prevent your system getting infected. There are many antivirus options out there that are very affordable if not free; however, it may be a good idea to invest in something a little more heavy-duty if you receive a lot of email or spend most of your time on the internet. Think about it, the price to install antivirus software will be dwarfed by the cost to remove a virus and the man hours required to restore your lost data.
2. Ensure your connection is secure. Use an internet browser with the latest security protocols like Chrome or Safari to surf the web and make sure all websites you visit are secure. Most browsers will alert you if you’re entering a website that isn’t secure and give you the choice of whether to proceed. If you’re suspicious at all, your best bet is to hit that back button.
Another good way to check for a secure connection is to look for an icon shaped like a padlock right before the URL in your browser window. Secure websites will also always begin with “https://”. The ‘S’ is critical. Websites beginning with just “http://” are not secure.
3. Think before you click. We have all fallen victim to a phishing email. Thankfully when that happens, we have antivirus software to catch anything sinister. If you receive an email that seems suspicious, the safest option is to just delete it without even opening it. However, if you don’t notice something’s off until after you’ve opened the email, do not under any circumstances click any links included in the message. Hopefully your spam filters will catch any phishing emails before you even see them, but make sure to always check the sender’s address, especially on emails requesting personal information or passwords. These messages are almost always phishing emails.
4. Keep your system up to date. Whenever your operating system or computer programs tell you it’s time to make an update, do it. Systems with the most up-to-date software are less vulnerable to malware, ransomware and cryptoviruses.
5. Frequent backups. If all else fails, creating backups of your system regularly (once per week at least) can save your data if you do happen to fall victim to a computer virus. Make sure to store your backups on an external hard drive or cloud service. If using an external hard drive or flash drive, keep multiple copies of your backups in various places (one at the office, one at home and one in a lockbox, for example), so they are unaffected and easy to access if you ever need them. If you prefer to use a cloud service, use one that allows versioning (allows you to access multiple versions of your data from specific dates and times) rather than one that overwrites existing backups with the newest version.
Have questions about malware, ransomware and cryptoviruses that we didn’t answer here?