How to protect your computer from viruses
With so much personal information stored on our computers and online, cyber security is a hot topic. Here are our top tips to keeping your computer secure…
09 Jul 2020
Viruses on your computer aren't just an inconvenience - they can also give hackers access to all your private information, so keeping on top of your antivirus and software updates is key.
When you’re busy it’s tempting to keep putting them off, but you could be opening yourself up to a whole lot of trouble. Particularly if you have a Windows laptop or PC.
What is a virus?
There are lots of different viruses that work in different ways, but essentially, they're programs that sneak into your computer and disrupt the information.
Quite often we unknowingly let them in by downloading a file or clicking a link that seems safe. That’s why antivirus software and updates are so important – they protect us from the stuff we can’t see.
- Viruses: programs that damage your computer’s files and folders - they spread over the internet and through email attachments.
- Trojans: malware hidden inside a file or program that looks real - trojans install spyware or adware on your machine and leak your personal files without you knowing
- Worms: work their way onto your computer through an open internet connection - they’re often used to send spam emails from your account
- Ransomware: locks down your computer and systems until a ransom fee is paid - it’s usually targeted at businesses, but personal PCs aren’t immune to it
Here’s how you can stay safe…
1. Upgrade to Windows 10
Especially if you run an old Windows XP laptop or PC. Microsoft stopped providing official security updates and fixes for XP back in 2014. And the same goes for Windows 7 - it hasn't been supported since January. So if you're still using XP or 7, you’ll have been unprotected for the past few months or years.
If you aren’t running Windows 10 yet, now is the time to upgrade.
2. Always have the latest Windows security updates
When you’re busy or shutting your computer down in a hurry it can be tempting to ignore the latest update your computer is trying to install. But don’t – it could save you a massive headache in the long run.
Set your preferences to regularly check for updates and always install them when they’re available.
3. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date
High-quality antivirus software is your first line of defence. Once installed, it can automatically remove any attacks on your system and block infected emails. There are two main types:
- Antivirus software: provides a basic level of protection and will scan and remove viruses and related malware
- Internet Security suites: give you additional levels of protection such as automatic checking of email and downloads, spam filters, parental controls and anti-phishing software
4. Be careful opening email attachments
It’s easy to absent-mindedly click on something that pops up in your inbox. But think twice – look at the sender and the subject, and make sure you’re happy that the source is authentic before you open it.
Viruses and other types of malware often disguise themselves as ordinary files. So be extra careful when opening emails or attachments.
5. Turn your firewall on
Your computer's firewall has control over what has access to and from your computer. This will block the availability of untrustworthy files and websites and can alert you if a virus tries to hack into your computer.
Yes, the firewall alerts can be annoying when you’re browsing the web (you’ll usually get a little pop up if it thinks an information source is unreliable) but it’s better to have that safety net in place.
Although Windows and AppleOS come with a basic firewall, you can also use the one that comes with your antivirus software for maximum protection.
6. Keep your passwords secure
Nowadays we store much of our personal information like banking details and credit card information online, so it’s important that your online passwords are safe.
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