Five Ways to Protect Yourself from Falling Victim to a Computer Virus
Winding up with a virus on your computer is not necessarily the end of the world, but is generally, at best, an inconvenience and at worst can see you having your identity stolen and used for very malicious purposes. In short, it may not be the worst experience in the world, but it is certainly an experience it is well worth avoiding. With this in mind, here are five ways to protect yourself from falling victim to a computer virus.
1, Only Use Computers and Mobile Devices with Modern Operating Systems
Apple, Google and Microsoft have all been improving the security of their operating systems over the course of their existence. These improvements have been a combination of fixing recognized vulnerabilities and trying to monitor for threats and deal with them proactively. As a result, all the current iterations of the main operating systems have some form of inbuilt security app. Apple has XProtect (for both MacOS and iOS), Google has Google Play Protect and Microsoft has Windows Defender. It would be highly unwise to rely on these systems on their own but they are a good place to start.
For a case study in what can happen when you use an out-of-date operating system, do an internet search on “Wannacry virus 2017” and read up about the devastation it caused. The WannaCry virus exploited a vulnerability in Windows XP, which had been discontinued in 2008. In other words, the computers it infected were running an operating system which was nearly a decade out of date.
2, Apply All Updates Promptly
Updates can be a pain, especially operating system updates which can take a long time to install and almost invariably involve at least one restart. They are, however, vital. While some updates will be about improving functionality and, in some cases, this may involve adding features which you feel you neither need nor want, many upgrades involve some sort of security improvement, perhaps patching a vulnerability which has been identified or adding a feature to detect a new threat.
3, Invest Some Money in a Good Antivirus Program
Neither Apple nor Google nor Microsoft is a security company and the inbuilt protection offered by their default security apps is nowhere near as robust as the protection offered by products from companies which do specialize in security. Similarly, the free programs offered by these companies do not offer the same level of security as their paid options (otherwise there would be no incentive to upgrade). Given the sort of devastation viruses can cause, it makes a lot of sense to invest in a solid antivirus program for both your desktop/laptop and any mobile devices you own.
4, Look After Your Devices Physically
Remember that good digital security starts with good physical security. If your physical device falls into the wrong hands, they could work on it at their leisure and might be able to break through even the most sophisticated forms of protective software. Because of this modern anti-virus programs often have a feature which allows users to wipe devices remotely. This has obvious relevance to mobile devices, however, it’s also a good idea to use it on laptops and it could even be worth using on desktops.
Speaking of laptops and desktops, consider the usefulness of plain, old-fashioned locks. Many laptops have a slot which allows you to use a special lock, often known as a Kensington lock, to secure them to an object which would be hard to move (like a desk). Desktops typically don’t but there are special kits you can use to secure a desktop to a desk (or, in principle) anything else, or you can lock the room they are in (or both).
5, Be Careful About What Physical Media You Use
These days most software is probably either used in the cloud or downloaded from the internet, but it is still fairly common for people to use physical media to send files from one person to another or to back up their computer or mobile device. Ideally, the only portable media you would ever put into your computer or mobile device would be media you have just removed from its original packaging, but in the real world this is not always possible. It is, however, always possible to run a virus scan on it before you play anything from it and certainly before you install anything on it. Once media has been removed from its secure packaging, make sure that you keep it in a safe place to prevent malicious actors from tampering with it.
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