No one wants to deal with a virus that makes a computer slow down, get bombarded with advertisements, or worse yet – leak personal information to some dingy hacker hideout. Thankfully, there are easy steps you can take to ensure a virus isn't invited in to play with your data. Being familiar with some of the most popular ways people's computers get infected could save you a lot of trouble.
1. Downloaded Programs
Whether it's a free editing software or a video game, always take care when downloading a program from the web. To be sure that you're downloading the official version, always go to the official developer's website, rather than on a random result froma Google search. If you can't find the developer's page, use a well-established website like www.download.com from CNet.
2. Email Attachments
You may easily spot an unsolicited e-mail when it contains promises of great wealth from conducting a business deal with royalty in far-away countries, but sometimes e-mails with viruses can be hard to catch. You may get a shipping confirmation, bank notice, or other commonplace e-mail from what looks like a trusted company – but you should always make sure that the e-mail matches your expectations. Sometimes your colleagues or friends accounts can be compromised, so if you're in doubt that the "funny video" you grandma is sending you is legitimate, consider giving her a call first to check if she really sent it (worst case, you'll bring a smile to grandma's face!).
BONUS: Think social media is a safer communications technology than your dusty and rusty e-mail inbox? Think again. Attackers are now using social media to entice users into clicking links and spreading files that contain viruses. Although you won't get a virus from Likeing your friends' posts, be careful of the links you click and files you download.
3. Out-of-Date Software
When you skip on an update from the developers of software you have on your computer, you may be missing out on a security patch that was released to keep you safe. Be vigilant about updates, whether it be for programs you infrequently use, your operating system, and maybe most importantly, your anti-virus software. If the program you're using to protect yourself from viruses is outdated, it may fail to catch the newest virus on the block.
4. Online Ads and Fake Buttons
Although you'll be fine to click something when browsing the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, try to avoid clicking ads on websites that may have lower standards for the content they run. To avoid this possibility altogether, you can install an ad-blocker on your web browser that will automatically hide all the ads on any website that you browse.