How to make sure your computer stays free of spyware
Spyware may be the nastiest malware on the internet. It can steal anything from your browsing history to your identity. Fortunately, you can, should and must protect yourself. Here’s how to make sure your computer stays free of spyware.
The best way to deal with adverts is to avoid having them displayed on your computer in the first place. This may sound harsh, especially since many content creators benefit from ad revenue, but nobody gains from malware. The hard fact is that adverts are increasingly used to spread malware, including spyware, so the more of them you see, the more at risk you are.
It’s also worth noting that some advert designers use very underhand tricks to get people to click on adverts. For example, they’ll design an advert so that it looks like clicking on a specific place will close the advert when, in actual fact, it will send you through to a website, possibly a malicious one. It’s also worth noting that there has been at least one instance of a virus being activated just through adverts being displayed on screen (this happened in an attack on Spotify).
In short, get robust ad-blocking software and support your favorite content creators in other ways. Social shares cost nothing and can help a lot, especially for smaller creators.
Keep your computer fully up-to-date
Applying updates can be a very tedious process, but it’s also a very necessary one. You need to ensure that your operating system, software and browser(s) are all kept fully up-to-date at all times. If you’re finding this a hassle, then trim back on your apps, not on your updates.
On a slightly off-topic note, it’s also a good idea to minimize the amount of data you keep on your computer, especially personal data. Basically the less you have on your computer, the less there is at risk in the event your computer is attacked. As a minimum, back-up your key data on a separate storage medium like a USB stick or portable hard drive. Then disconnect this completely from your computer. None of this will protect you from spyware, but, at the very least, it means you should have clean, reliable copies of anything important.
Make use of browser privacy settings
In addition to keeping your browser(s) up-to-date, go into the privacy settings and push them up as high as they will go. While you’re looking at your browser(s), you might want to prune any plug-ins/extensions you use and ensure that the ones which remain are also kept fully up-to-date.
Watch your browsing, downloads and shares
Even though malware is becoming more sophisticated, much of it is spread by plain, old-fashioned trickery. The good news is that plain, old-fashioned common sense will go a long way towards keeping you safe online.
First of all, remember that even people you trust can make mistakes. In other words, never assume that a link or a file is safe just because it came from someone you know, not even if they are an IT security professional. You can run any link through a reputable link checker such as Google’s Safe Browsing, but if you’re running proper security software (see below) then this should check links and files for you.
For the sake of completeness, this applies regardless of how the link or file was sent. So, for example, in addition to being careful with your email, you need to look out for links sent through instant messengers and in social media posts.
Similarly, think before you share links and files. The last thing you want to do is be the person who passes on malware to your friends!
When it comes to browsing the internet, be very careful. These days, there are all kinds of free downloads and many of them are totally legitimate. In fact, probably most of them are totally legitimate, but you still need to be careful. Be particularly cautious if you use file-sharing sites. These can be a great way to get large files across the internet, but make sure you can trust the sender and have your security software check the files anyway.
Make sure you are using a robust security program
Although everyone uses the term “antivirus”, what you really need is an all-round security program. As a minimum, you want protection from viruses, spyware, adware and ransomware plus a firewall. Firewalls are essentially digital security barriers which stand between your computer and the internet. They’re often marketed as “browsing protection”. Comodo antivirus has all this and much more. Head to this page to keep yourself safe from today’s digital threats.