The best way to fight malware or viruses is to prevent them from infecting your computer in the first place. You can help keep your computer protected by:
- Be diligent about what email messages you open and what websites you surf. In my experience, most infections come from one of these two sources. If something doesn’t look right, then investigate it before clicking on it. If you hover above a hyperlink with your mouse pointer, you will usually see the destination URL. If this address does not look legitimate, then it might be a good idea to call someone at that company to see if this is a “real” email.
- Running the latest version of Windows. Every version of Windows is much more secure than the previous version. Windows 7 is by far much more secure than Windows XP (which is still widely used). Upgrading to Windows 7 will help keep you more secure.
- Making sure you have the latest security and critical/important updates. These updates come out on a regular basis to help keep you protected from new threats which target Windows, Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Flash Player, Shockwave, and many other products. Stay up to date with the latest patches and updates for each. A good start is installing Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows 7.
- Running updated anti-virus & anti-malware/spyware software on your computer. Having security software on your PC is nearly useless if it isn’t being updated on a regular basis. If you are using software provided by your company, chances are these updates are happening automatically. If you are using a product like Norton 360 or AVG, then there are annual subscriptions required to get these regular pattern and engine updates. Make sure you have active subscriptions, and also that your updates are actually being installed.
- Running firewall software on your computer. Many security suites like Norton 360 come with a software firewall. If yours didn’t, fear not. Windows comes with a simple software firewall
- Making sure you have a good firewall appliance at the edge of your network, and that it is updated regularly with the latest definitions from the manufacturer. Usually these updates come on a paid subscription basis. These days firewalls aren’t just for corporate networks. It is equally important to have them at the edge of your home network between your cable/DSL modem and your network switch or wireless access point. A firewall appliance will help keep threats from ever reaching your computer. Remember security should always be in multiple layers! By the way, a wireless router is NOT the same as a firewall appliance. Astaro offers a home user license which is free of charge for up to 50 devices.
If you do all of these, your computer is far less likely to contract infections. But no matter how far you take it, chances are something will eventually get through. Don’t worry, even the best of us get an infection from time to time. When computers become infected with a virus or other malware there are steps you can take to fix them. Check my blog next week to find out more on how to fix these types of infections on a Windows PC or laptop.