Let’s face it; viruses and malware aren’t disappearing any time soon. They have become more common and increasingly advanced on every platform from Windows to Mac. Even smartphones are starting to succumb to never ending spread of malware. Let’s go over some of the things you can do to prevent an infection and, in most cases, remove any threats successfully without much effort.
Keep your antivirus software up to date. This is one of the most important and effective things you can do to prevent an infection and remove any malware you might have. This not only applies to the program’s detection files, but also to the program itself. Don’t have an antivirus program on your computer? Get one. There are many, many great choices to decide on. You may notice that a lot of antivirus programs now either have a free version, or are completely free. One of the key factors for this change compared to the past is the increasing amount and severity of malware. Nowadays, almost everything we interact with whether in the corporate world, at home, or on the go, involves some sort of computing process. The fact that viruses and malware have become so common necessitates the use of antivirus software. If you consider how damaging most malware can be, you may come to understand why IT professionals are very serious about protecting yourself. Protecting yourself is extremely important, but the fact that most malware is easily spread over email, networks, and websites/webservers, changes the game. If you put yourself at risk, you’re also putting anyone else on your network at risk. Even people you communicate with regularly become at risk whether it’s through social engineering based attacks or not.
Use an up-to-date web browser. This has become an incredibly big issue as of late. Older browsers are generally insecure and exploitable (as well slow, but that’s another topic). The fact that Apple’s desktop and mobile OS was exploited through Safari at a previous Pwn2Own contest says a lot. Hackers are no longer solely relying on a user installing software to become infected. Instead, a lot of recent attacks are targeted at users browsing the internet. For example, let’s say you’re using Internet Explorer 6 and you visit a site that has either become compromised unintentionally (yes, it happens all the time), or is designed to infect the user. Since you’re running an incredibly old browser, it’s more than probable that you’ll become infected. If that happens, you’re now relying on your antivirus software to either catch it in real time, or on the next scan. If you’re not using antivirus, you can guess what’ll happen. If you are, it comes down to a matter of statistics. Newer browsers implement much better security methods and are generally safer to use. Sometimes, it can even render certain malware ineffective because of the advanced security measures in place. That’s not normally the case, but it does happen if the virus or malware is old and sloppily coded.
Be smart. There are many sites out there that trick you into downloading software that is actually malware. Other sites may try to look like official legitimate sites but are actually in place to either steal your sensitive information, infect you, or both. Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace all have their share of threats as well. Sometimes you may see a post from a friend that is in broken English or just doesn’t make sense. These are usually accompanied with a link and a little closer that tries to make you click on the link. These posts are the result of socially engineered malware. They leverage the power of social networking sites along with any compromised accounts they’ve already taken control of, and attack others using the same method. You can imagine the rate of compromised accounts and malware since many people do not think about what they’re clicking on or if it’s even safe. Be smart, stay alert, and watch out for any social engineering attacks directed at you. Remember, just because your friend posted something on Facebook and you personally know him, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your friend posted it. The number of compromised accounts on social networking sites (and email providers) is staggering and always growing every day.
Those are only a couple of factors that will keep you safe from attacks. Try to think of the big picture. If you don’t care about your computer getting infected or attacked, consider other people that come into contact with you or that computer. This can be anything from friends/family physically using the computer to communicating with you while you use that computer. Remember, almost every industry has an IT aspect to it. Things you aren’t even aware of can cause a big impact and, in most cases, can cause that impact silently. Also, be sure to consider that malware comes in more variations than you can count and has many different types as well as a wide variety of goals. In the end, if you’re not careful and end up getting infected, you could be the reason why your friend just spent $300 at Best Buy getting the viruses off his computer.