How to: Protect your computer from malware in 4 simple steps

Well, since I’ve got the day off school today thanks to the vast amounts of snow across the country, I’ve decided it might be a good idea to post up a simple guide on how to protect your computer from malware and dangerous software in a few simple steps. This guide should be useful to even the most novice of computer users and will help you get started even if you don’t know your anti-virus from your firewall.

Before I start, everybody who uses a computer needs to be aware of the importance of making sure your computer is protected from malware. If you don’t keep it protected you are at risk from software that may damage your operating system or steal much of your personal details.

The biggest threat to your personal details are probably key loggers. Software is maliciously installed onto your computer via programs running in the background and then it monitors what you type with your keyboard. It then saves this data and sends it back to whoever requested it. You have to remember that this isn’t just forum passwords and computer logons – it could be your online banking details or your credit card details.

So anyway – here’s the top 4 ways to make sure your computer is safe:

  1. Make sure that you have anti-virus and firewall installed. There is plenty of free anti-virus software available – there’s no need to be spending money. I’d personally recommend Comodo Internet Security as it not only includes anti-virus and firewall in one package, but it works very well and doesn’t slow down your PC. However, other free standalone anti-virus packages include Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG Free, Avast! and more. Windows XP, Vista and 7 all comes with firewall by default, but the more security conscious should download something a bit more advanced. Comodo Internet Security comes with firewall as I said earlier, but you could also try ZoneAlarm or Outpost. When you’ve downloaded the relevant software and installed it, you’ll need to make sure that its configured correctly – it should do this automatically. If it’s set to monitor “on access” (which means it monitors traffic as it is downloaded or uploaded) and is set to occasionally do a full scan (about once a week or so) you should be fine.
  2. Make sure your chosen software is up to date. This is vital as new threats crop up daily – so you need to make sure your software isn’t going to be missing threats that came out yesterday. Your security software will probably warn you if you’re software is out of date. If it does, make sure you’re connected to the internet and tell it to update. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes but it is key to a secure key.
  3. Don’t download software you aren’t sure about. There are plenty of pop-ups and weird advertisements across the internet that may encourage you to download software you might not trust – some claim your computer is “unprotected” or “unsafe”. Totally ignore them – they are trying to encourage you to download software that could be harmful to your computer – such as key loggers. Before downloading software, try to do a quick web search to verify the safety of the software. It may be totally fine, but it’s better safe than sorry.
  4. Check the security of websites you are using. Especially consider this when you are logging onto sites that involve money. Make sure there is a padlock logo in the address bar, and make sure that the web address familiar. For example, if you are logging into PayPal, make sure the web address shows “paypal.com” and the “https://” beginning. The HTTPS means that the page is encrypted and secure. If your web browser warns you about anything to do with an “invalid” or “unsecure” certificate, tread carefully. I would suggest you try again later. If the warning persists, contact the customer support for the site you are trying to log onto, and ask them to look into the issue.

There you go – 4 simple steps that will make sure you and your computer is safe on the internet. Stick to those and you should never have a problem!

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