1: Use Anti-Virus Software
Anti Virus Software is your best protection against the worst kind of computer problems—viruses. Although most virus spread through email and Internet downloads, some spread directly through the network and other spread through USB disk drives. There’s too many ways for an virus to get on your computer for you to try to guard against all of them, so the first step you take to secure your computer should be to install good anti-virus software. But even more important than installing the anti-virus software is keeping it updated. Most anti-virus software will update itself—just make sure you don’t disable updating in the configuration or go too long without connecting to the Internet.
Anti-virus software can only protect against known viruses. Hackers are writing new viruses everyday, so its important to also follow the rest of the tips in this article to keep yourself safe
The software you thought you were installing quietly installs a few extra programs you didn’t ask for. Some of these programs display ads, some of them report details about your computer to hackers, some of them may even open ports—short for portals—that allow hackers to access your computer.
It’s hard to tell which software is legitimate and which software is genuinely useful, but if you have any doubt about a program, it’s best left uninstalled.
2: Don’t Trust Email
Viruses know that people trust their friends and family, and they often exploit this by sending rouge emails containing viruses to unsuspecting users. It’s not that your mother would ever intentionally try to infect your computer with a virus—she doesn’t know the attachment she sent you contains a virus.
A specific type of hacker called phisers also use fake e-mails from respected Internet companies to try to get your passwords. After they get your password, they’ll try to use it to empty your online bank accounts.
All of this means only one thing: don’t trust email. Don’t download attachments unless they’re in in a safe file format. Don’t click on links in your email and enter your password. With the state of email today, it’s ok to be a little paranoid. There are a few things for you to do to try and stop spam e-mails, but again it takes common sense mostly.
All of these problems need to be investigated. Viruses often use your computer processing power for evil, making your computer run slow. Viruses often try to hide among other programs, causing strange error messages. Viruses often send spam emails, making your ISP complain.
If you see a problem, start investigating it and don’t stop until you figure out what the problem was. Otherwise you risk letting a small virus install bigger, worse viruses.
If your anti-virus software comes with a firewall, I suggest you use that instead—not because it’s better, but because it will probably be easier for you to use. And keeping things simple is its own safety computer tips.
3: Beware Downloading
The easiest way for hackers to install malware (bad programs) on your computer is by convincing you to install them yourself. Most malware on the Web hides as small but useful-sounding programs. For example, new screen savers, new chat applications, and minor desktop improvements.
Do you trust your mother? Of course you do, so why wouldn’t you download the attachment she sent you in her latest email?
Is there something goofy about your computer? Is it running slow? Are you getting strange error messages? Is your ISP complaining that you’re sending too many emails?
There’s a big difference between good and bad anti-virus software, but the same isn’t true of firewall software. Even the free firewall that comes with all recent versions of Windows will fully protect your computer against automatic network virus attacks. Just make sure you turn it on in the control panel.