As our lives in the twenty-first century become more digital, we need to do it safely to avoid online threats like malware. Malware is software that is meant to damage or disable computers, usually disguised in executable files like programs or pictures. Malware includes things like viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, adware, and other malicious programs. Once malware infects your computer or mobile device, it can go after your personal and financial information, and leave your life in disarray.
However, by following a few safe dos and don’ts, you can avoid a lot of the dangers present in today’s malware.
- use automatic updates
- use security software
- use strong passwords
- backup your personal files
- open unknown emails
- use the same password for multiple online accounts
- use outdated software
- download software from unknown sources
Most of the major Operating Systems in use today (Windows, OSX, Linux, etc.) will automatically apply updates on a periodic basis. While some of these updates are minor changes, others are security patches that fix critical vulnerabilities discovered by analysts and researchers. By installing these updates your are keeping yourself protected from possible exploit attempts.
Sometimes even the “known-safe” websites become unsafe if they are compromised by hackers. In these cases, a strong AntiVirus program coupled with a second layer of defense (such as malware and/or exploit protection) will serve to protect you should something go wrong.
Many online accounts become compromised due to weak passwords. A password needs to be complex, using a mixture of letters, numbers, and special characters. You’ve likely heard this tip for a long time, but it doesn’t always stick with people since these passwords become hard to remember. On a positive note, a password manager can organize your passwords for you and store them in a secure, encrypted format.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. If your computer or mobile device does get infected with malware, there is no telling how it might alter your filesystem. With powerful ransomware like Cryptolocker around, a malware infection could turn a headache into a heartache. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to perform routine backups in case your important files are affected by malware.
Forget don’t respond, don’t even open an email if it’s from an unknown sender. Also, be wary of emails claiming to be from businesses and financial institutions like your bank; they could be phishing emails designed to capture your personal information. Always verify the sender address.
When passwords are complex, they’re hard to remember. Because of this it’s always tempting to use one password for all of your important online accounts. Hackers know this, so develop the habit of using unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Like we mentioned earlier, you can use a password manager to help you organize this mess.
A lot of popular software applications that you use everyday have unknown vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit, giving them unauthorized access to your computer or mobile device. Always make sure your software stays up-to-date when using it. As a sidenote, if you don’t use the software, uninstall it to avoid any unnecessary risk.
Before you introduce new software to your computer or mobile device, it never hurts to do a quick Internet search on the software or website you’re downloading from to make sure it’s safe. If negative information or nothing comes back at all, that’s usually a good sign to stay away.
Malware is a very serious threat to anyone who uses the internet. Internet users today need to be aware of the dangers of malware infections in order to defend themselves adequately. By following the aforementioned dos and don’ts, you will be much less likely to become infected by malware.