Protect yourself against malware and viruses

Cyber security and human error

Keeping your computer(s) safe should be a number one priority. Not only could you loose precious documents, photos and other important files, but might also affect your work. Computers that are infected are slower and less responsive, so even if you would be able to use it, it would just hang or reboot randomly. The case is even worse, if you become a victim of a virus, that collects information about you and the websites you use without your knowledge. The virus could log your passwords, bank account information or any other personal information, that hackers could use without your knowledge. The bad news is, that cybercrime is a lucrative business and there will always be shady people wanting to steal your data. There is a growing tendency, just look at the news from the past few month about ransomware attacks. It all started with WannaCry (or WannaCrypt) and it’s variants, and continued with a more sophisticated virus, called Petya. These attacks were extremely effective: in just a couple of hours, thousands of computers got infected. The aim of such attacks is to lock down the entire computer by encrypting the content on it and have the user pay for an unlock key. It is like virtual kidnapping.

The good news is, that despite of all the hype and hysteria about these malicious codes, protecting yourself is not that difficult. It might not even cost you a dime, if you keep these simple rules:

Keep your softwares up to date

Make sure that the softwares you use, are up to date. Especially your operating system. You might also want to switch to a newer version of Windows and leave XP, Vista and even Windows 7 behind. Unlike good wine, softwares are not getting any better with age, you better embrace change!

Beware of suspicious emails and attachments

Curiosity is a strong force and hackers know that too. So when you receive an email with a promise of a funny image or video from a stranger, do not fall for it. Same goes to emails that congratulate you on winning the lottery. Simply do not open attachments coming from unknown sources. Checking the real email address of the sender can also help.

Make backup of your data

Making frequent and regular backup of your important files is vital. There are several ways to do it: if you have a USB stick or an external hard disk, you can copy individual files or folder. You can also keep certain folders synchronised automatically, see this tutorial for Windows based system using Briefcase. If you are using a Mac, you can use the Time Machine feature, which also works with most network storages. Another good solution would be to back up your files to a cloud provider, like Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox and many others.

Install an anti-virus software

For extra protection, you may use an anti-virus software. You still have to make sure, that your operating system is up to date and that you keep the anti-virus software updated. You can find en extensive list of anti-virus softwares for Windows and OSX (Mac) systems.

Keep private and business separated

Try to separate your private life from your business. You can do that, by having to computers, using one for only work and the other one only for private matters and leisure. In case one gets infected, you still have a fully functional computer left.

Software from trusted sources

Only use software from trusted sources, such as the built-in app store in Windows or Mac. If a software is not listed in the store, you can still check the developer’s website or simply run a search in your favourite search engine, to see if the software is safe. Always make sure, if the software you are about to download and install is absolutely needed and is from a safe source.

Online movie websites

There are a huge number of websites providing free streaming of movies and series. First of all, these websites are making money on copyright material, basically by stealing intellectual property. These websites live of advertisements, and will literally cover your browser with unwanted pop-ups, pop-unders, interstitial windows and endless number of ads. One of their dirty tactic is to tell you, that your Flash player needs an update and will make you download and install a software, that is probably containing virus, trojan, malware or all of them. It is actually quite rare, that a website would tell you to install something. Most likely it will be Adobe Flash Player, Java, Microsoft Silverlight and these you should get directly from the official website.

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