Catching malware is easy, but generally it can also be avoided easily. All it takes is a little common sense.
1. Open Only Links & Downloads You Trust
This should be obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough. You should not visit dubious websites or download questionable or illegal files. This is almost a sure way to catch malware. If you are not able to avoid these websites, make sure your system is thoroughly protected. If you need help evaluating links for their safety, you can use a browser plugin called Web of Trust (WOT).
Also check out this article: 3 Best Resources To Find Sites That Are Known To Have Spyware & Viruses
2. Turn Off HTML In Emails
A common way how malware is distributed is through email. In fact, malicious emails can contract malware by automatically running scripts when you open an email in HTML view. That’s why most email clients and webmail clients per default do not display HTML content (such as pictures). Leave it that way and only allow trusted sources to automatically display HTML content.
3. Do Not Open Unsolicited Email Attachments
Do not open attachments unless you trust the source or without scanning them. Most webmail clients will scan attachments before allowing you to open them. Also most desktop email clients provide malware scanning to protect you from malicious attachments. Never skip this step!
For more details about the danger of malware spreaded through email, check out this article: 3 Top Ways People Get Infected by An Email Virus [In Case You Were Wondering].
4. Understand How Scams & Phishing Attacks Work
Scams and phishing attacks can hide behind Facebook notifications or an email from your bank. Only that Facebook or your bank never actually sent these emails, they are fake. When you follow the link and enter requested details, the scammers successfully ‘phished’ your password or personal information.
Of course Facebook does sent out legitimate notifications and your bank may contact your through email, too. So when in doubt, always double-check where those links really take you to. Hover over the link in your email and check the underlying URL or (if need be) check for the URL in your browser URL bar.
Also check out this article: Top 5 Internet Fraud & Scams Of All Time.
5. Do Not Be Intimidated Or Fooled By Scare Tactics
They come in all forms and shapes. I will give you some examples below, but generally let me say that you should never install anti-virus or anti-spyware or anti-malware software from untrusted sources! If you are unsure what to get, you can consult the MakeUseOf Best Of Windows or Linux Software pages.
My personal recommendation for Windows users is this malware protection software combination:
- AntiVir Free Version (anti-virus)
- Microsoft Security Essentials (anti-virus)
- Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (anti-malware)
So how do scammers scare people? Usually, when you visit a website, a pop up warns you that your computer virus definitions are outdated or that your computer is infected and that you should install a tool to scan your computer and remove the malware. Don’t let such warnings scare you, they are fake! Lately, scammers also started calling people at their home to tell them that their computer is infected, asking them to turn on their computer, visit a website, and install a software to fix the issue. If this happens to you, simply hang up, it’s fake, too.
6. Scan External Drives You Connect To Your Computer
If you connect an external drive, for example a USB stick from a friend to your computer, be sure to let your anti-virus software scan it. Your friend may not know that they are contracting malware. If you have anti-malware or anti-virus software installed on your computer, you can typically scan the drive by going to > (My) Computer, then right-click on the external drive and select the respective option from the right-click menu, for example > Scan selected files with AntiVir.
7. Pay Attention When Installing Software
Often, a software installer includes optional installs, such as a toolbar or additional programs. Be very careful what you agree to install. Always opt for the custom installation and deselect anything that is not familiar, especially optional software that you never wanted to download and install in the first place. It goes without saying that you should not install software that you don’t trust.
Do you feel like you do need some additional malware protection after all? Check out the following posts:
- The 10 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs
- Find Elusive Malware On Your PC With Microsoft Safety Scanner
- Stop & Delete Spyware With Malwarebytes [Windows]
Other than not going online, what tips and tricks did I forget? How do you protect your computer and your data from infections?