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how to never get a virusIn 20 odd years of using computers, I can safely say that I’ve never been a victim of any computer virus, and yet I’ve also never run anti-virus software. It’s a curious fact that the people who are most worried about viruses get them more often.  With a little basic training you can completely avoid the problem of viruses and malware, so you can calm down and enjoy the internet!

1. Beware of Fake Download / Play Buttons:

Usually these are targeted on torrent sites or anything with a download keyword on it, so users are fooled into clicking it and downloading something completely unrelated. It’s a dirty trick, and the only way to defeat them is to be careful and think twice before hitting the download button. It helps if you already know the site in question, because you should be able to realize the location of the download button has changed – but what about new users?

Check the status bar. Though this can be faked with JavaScript, I’ve noticed these ads in particular don’t usually do that. If the domain in the status is different to the site you’re on, it’s probably a malicious advert.

Another method is to use logic. If you have download some software for example, and it’s showing a PLAY NOW button, you should know instantly that’s completely unrelated. The visual style is a giveaway too.

how to never get a virus

2. Don’t use Internet Explorer:

In every hacking convention so far, Internet Explorer has always been the first to fall. It has been claimed that a fresh install of XP with IE6 will be infected within minutes of browsing the internet. While the latest IE9 may have toughened up a little, the fact is that IE is specifically targeted by hackers on a daily basis, precisely because the number of people who don’t even consider switching browsers makes it a profitable target. Go download Chrome.

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3. Hang Up on Cold-Calling Indian Technical Support Agents:

In the UK at least, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of scam telephone calls from supposed Windows technical support agents. Here’s how it starts:
A: Hi there, I’m from (indecipherable) and we’ve registered an error from your Windows – have you been experiencing any issues with it lately?

At this point, 90% of people will be thinking their Windows is broken and yes, of course they have been experiencing issues, because who doesn’t have Windows problems? You’ll then be walked through how to give this called complete remote control access to your PC, where they perform some BS technical checks and try to get you to purchase a support contract. Check out this video so you know what to expect.

4. Ignore Pop-Ups That Have Anything To Do With Security or Viruses:

These are difficult if you are actually running anti-virus software, because they pop up and fool you into thinking your AV software has found something.

For a start, ignore anything originating from your browser – which you can check by completely closing it down. As a general rule of thumb, ignore any and all security related messages if you didn’t initiate them youself – by clicking on your AV software’s SCAN button, for example. If you get a message from an AV app on windows you never installed, it’s likely you’ve already been infected.

never get a virus again

5. Avoid Public Torrent Sites Like The Plague:

Most public torrent sites are teething with malware and fake torrents. I don’t care what you download, but make sure you do it from a private tracker. They’re a few exceptions to the rule, some of which we’ve covered in the best new torrent sites. – with millions of users, the comment system is usually full of reports of fake files or viruses – but stick to uploads from trusted power users (ones with a little pink or green skull and crossbones next to them).

never get a virus again

Private trackers are only open to members, so it’s sometimes hard to find some that are accepting new registrations. We wrote before about how to find trackers that are open Three Ways to Find Open Registration on Private Torrent Sites Three Ways to Find Open Registration on Private Torrent Sites Read More . Be warned though, private trackers don’t take kindly to leeching, and if your ratio drops you can get banned.

never get a virus again

6. Fake Torrents That Need a Specific Video Player:

If you’ve ignored my advice and downloaded some movie from a public torrent site, there’s a very good chance it’s a fake. These are difficult to detect because the file is usually padded to be about the right size, but upon playing them you’ll see a message that you need to download a new video player because it’s encoded specially or words to that effect.

Don’t download movies from public sites, and use VLC player to check a file. VLC player has every codec under the sun built-in, so if it doesn’t play correctly in that, it’s not a real movie.

how to never get a virus

7. Don’t Open Anything Forwarded To You:

While you can be as careful as you like, your friends might not. If you have the kind of friends who forward you fun little flash games packaged up in .exe files, or anything other than a simple picture, just delete them.

8. Don’t search for common utilities in Google:

We covered this a little while ago – the worrying trend of malware ridden sites ranking highly in Google for various common utilities Downloading Open Source Software? Watch Out For The Crapware... [News] Downloading Open Source Software? Watch Out For The Crapware... [News] If you’re a regular here at MakeUseOf you’ll know we have a penchant for exploring quality, free open source software. Today we’re highlighting the importance of downloading these gems from the official software source, especially... Read More . Thinking you are downloading the best video player around, you actually get a virus infected copy instead from a dodgy third-party site. The solution – Have no fear, we have an extensive list of the BEST software for Windows (and now Linux, with Mac OSx one in the works – not that osx or linux users need to worry about viruses…) with verified links that you can trust. If you’re unsure of a particular app – where to download it officially or if it’s worth it – you can always ask around on our helpful tech questions community.

9. Create a non-admin account for general use and family members:

If you allow yourself and members of your family to use the administration account, you are asking for trouble. Creating a limited privileges user account protects you somewhat by preventing anything run by that user (malicious or not) from doing any permanent damage. You can find out more about user accounts and everything else Windows 7 related in our fantastic free ebook The Windows 7 Guide: From Newbies To Pros [PDF] The Windows 7 Guide: From Newbies To Pros [PDF] Read More .

The internet can be a dangerous place, but not if you follow these simple rules. Got some other useful tips? Do share, please! Let’s put an end to the madness of anti-virus now!

  1. Lucky Joestar
    November 26, 2016 at 9:47 am

    I once got an email claiming to be a court summons. It directed me to open the attached file. I had the good sense to check the file type. It was a Javascript. Besides, court summons are always delivered by process servers or registered mail … never by email.

  2. CrispyLaToaster
    July 19, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    Today i saw a stupid ad that said "You have one unclaimed prize!" lol don't click things like that they are most likely to give your computer a virus

  3. Ken
    January 23, 2016 at 12:03 am

    A few years ago got a call and knowing these scams, immediately played along just because I was bored. They actually were good and claimed to be my ISP when they called. I played along and finally asked them what virus they found on my computer. They just remained silent, and asked if I would let them fix the problem. I said sure go ahead and fix it. Thats when they wanted me to go to the computer and direct me to a website where they would then be able to look at my computer. Being the computer in question was currently running Linux I went there. Well they really tried but I told them finally that it was up to them to fix it. Eventually they just hung up in frustration but it was funny that they really tried their best to have me run a program meant for windows in Linux. Failure was the only result.

  4. dereksteven022
    November 5, 2015 at 1:36 am

    So, I use my PC a lot. So, I'm really careful about downloading anything. Example: I downloaded a fake version a Adobe Flash Player. I got a new Browser called "Chromuim". Since then I've never downloaded any viruses on my PC. So what I'm trying to say is. Research what you're going to download!

  5. Jixyovanni
    May 25, 2015 at 6:02 am

    Using an administration account for general use is just fine, as long as you don't let people who don't know much about the internet, such as children, use it.

  6. jean
    May 3, 2015 at 1:17 am

    I stumbled onto this article trying to preapre a checklist or some newbie friends . I realize this is OOOLLLD but the first couple of lines cracked me - It is intersting to say you have never had a virus while also stating you have never run a virus scan. It would carry more credibility if you regularly ran virus scans and came up clean ; otherwise I have as much confidence in your claim as I do in all the "free downloads guaranteed not to be malware" claims.

    • James Bruce
      May 3, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      I live a happy and fulfilling computer life, and do not complain about popups, random ads, browser redirection, search bars, viruses, stolen credit card details, or any of the other symptoms of malware. So, believe it or not, I don't really care either way ;)

  7. Mwarren76
    July 8, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    The 'PC tech support cold-calling scam' video really cracked me up, especially when he said "terrible attacked by some malicious file" :). I feel sorry for people that fall for this scam. Why isn't there a mass general media coverage of this? Right after hearing about Swine flu, I want to hear about these type of scams on national news channel.

  8. Anilsingh1984
    June 24, 2011 at 7:50 am

    The title "Hang Up on Cold-Calling Indian Technical Support Agents" is not appropriate. Request you to please remove the word Indian as it gives an impression that all support executives from India are crooks.

    • James Bruce
      June 24, 2011 at 11:45 am

      Request denied. I've never had any cold calling Chinese technical support agents, nor american, nor any other. The key word here is "cold calling", and this SCAM does indeed only occur from India. So, no, sorry. 

      • Tina
        June 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm

        My elderly roommate recently had a call like that and handed the phone to me. The woman on the other end had a strong Indian accent and promptly hung up when I asked her which computer in the house was supposedly affected and how she got the number etc. This was in Canada.

  9. Sean Wilkerson
    June 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I call BS. I guarantee that you have some type of malware on your system if you haven't ran any type of anti virus or anti malware. Download Malwarebytes and run a scan.

    • James Bruce
      June 17, 2011 at 8:20 am

      I did a few months ago when I reviewed and it found nothing then (apart from the usual "malicious cookies", oh no, website left a cookie, OMG). I would indulge you this time, but im afraid i reformated last weekend and havent touched the machine since (too busy with real work), so i very much doubt it would find anything. 

  10. Nibras Ahamed Reeza
    June 7, 2011 at 6:49 am

    It's a great article and I'd give 5 stars for it.

    You missed HOSTS file editing. I use MVPS HOSTS file to block ads. However, it does block lots of malicious sites. 
    This helps you block malicious frames/ads on otherwise trustworthy sites.

    And, both Opera and Chrome support click-to-play for plugins. Enabling click-to-play would help you avoid Flash/Java exploits.

    I don't use a real time anti-virus either. I do have a copy of malware bytes anti-malware for that occasional scan.

    • James Bruce
      June 7, 2011 at 8:52 am

      You have a link for that hosts file to use? That sounds pretty cool and article-worthy! I tired but kept getting service unavailable ;(

  11. jim jones
    June 6, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    ad? there is no ad? block that ____

  12. Truecusp
    June 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Google Chrome has been hacked. Just use Google.

    I have Chrome, FF, Chrome and Chromium (no add ons or plugins except for flash) on an I7 2600K with a 6950 and i can tell you that IE9 makes all of them look pathetic when it comes to performance. FF4 has pretty bad performance and Chrome doesn't have much better.

    The only time I have ever gotten a virus was becuase of greasemonkey on FF.

    And what is the point to demean people for what they use. I come to MakeUseof because I usually do not get this kind of biased vitriol.

    • James Bruce
      June 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      FF4 is pretty bad performance, I dont disagree. Notice I wrote "download chrome". not "download firefox4".

      I dont think youre the kind of reader my article was aimed at though - you clearly know what youre doing and dont need advice from me on how not to get viruses. I'm also not sure why you think I'm demeaning you specifically. Because you use IE9?

      As for performance, IE9 is certainly better than Firefox, but I'd say it's on a level with Chrome right now, and real performance tests are as clear cut as making other browsers look pathetic:

      Chrome has been hacked, but notice it was only on Windows - and sadly we can't find out anything else, because the group that claims to be repsonsible wont tell without extorting money first. One single hack to Chrome on Windows still makes it the BEST browser of the lot. 

  13. Hozefa KB
    June 6, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Haha nice pic

  14. Ankur
    June 6, 2011 at 5:24 am

    Use linux ...

    No to Pen drive or scan them first .. no autoruns

    • James Bruce
      June 6, 2011 at 7:30 am

      Good tips! 

  15. Mandhat
    June 6, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Excellent Article!


  16. Ryan
    June 5, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    I find it ironic that after the end of this article, there's a huge Google ad telling users to download a Malware tool called Reimage. Is that supposed to be a quiz to see if we were paying attention?

    • James Bruce
      June 6, 2011 at 7:30 am

      You pass!

      December 19, 2014 at 9:05 pm

      Well you see..
      I dont see it because

  17. Jason
    June 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    @mvario And use what OSX? And have Apple deny a mass malware attack for weeks on end and tell their techs and support folks to ignore it and deny its existance? That's great security and a wonderful response. Not.

    • James Bruce
      June 6, 2011 at 7:31 am

      It required users to download, run, and authenticate the app. It's not like it automatically infected the system - unlike most windows viruses, you had to be pretty stupid to fall for it. 

  18. Scutterman
    June 5, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    "not that osx or linux users need to worry about viruses…" I hope this was a joke...

    I use avast antivirus and I've never been infected, though there have been a couple of times when I've had avast tell me a site is unsafe. Usually it's because a trusted site got link jacked or auto-redirected, but it's good to know I don't have to be 100% focussed all the time. Using AV doesn't mean I'm careless, just that I like a saftynet. And Avast has such a small footprint that I never even notice it.

    • James Bruce
      June 6, 2011 at 7:34 am

      Chrome tells me just fine when a site is unsafe. Avast is certainly one of the the better AV programs - unfortunately most users go for Norton, which is both ridiculously crap and a resource hog, and basically sucks. 

      • Scutterman
        June 8, 2011 at 10:29 pm

        Norton comes pre-installed on a lot of machines, and people are lazy. I wish someone would call monopoly on them like Microsoft and IE

  19. Pngwn56
    June 5, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    You should use Web of Trust too. It has ratings for a lot of websites and if another user got a virus, they will often report it.

    • James Bruce
      June 6, 2011 at 7:36 am

      It's an interesting concept , but again, Chrome/Firefox/Google both have these kind checks built into them, so why get yet ANOTHER toolbar to do the same job. To me, that's malware itself. I'd also be worried about random sites being filtered because some idiot reported a virus and has no idea what they're talking about. The trouble with trusting community responses is that 95% of people are idiots. 

      • Nibras Ahamed Reeza
        June 7, 2011 at 6:42 am

        The Chrome/Firefox/OpenDNS checks are usually dependent on their on purpose built databases.

        WOT on the other hand depends on user feedback. It not only checks for malicious sites but rather it also gives a rating for each site as well as comments by other users. This way, it could help you avoid SCAMs as well as malware.

  20. mvario
    June 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    #10 Don't use Microsoft Windows.

    • James Bruce
      June 6, 2011 at 7:36 am

      best. advice. ever.

    • KingOGreen2.0
      June 7, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      or #10 Use Linux, lol.

  21. .High*Ping*Drifter.
    June 5, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    #10: Disable Auto-run under Windoze.  Helps prevent your machine being auto-infected by infected USB drives.

    Comment regarding #2: Every browser has security weaknesses.  Historically speaking, Internet Exploder has been the greatest offender in this regard, trhough Firefox has slipped quite a bit.  I think Chrome is probably the safest browser currently out there, but even Chrome has weaknesses.

    • James Bruce
      June 6, 2011 at 7:44 am

      That makes a perfect number 10 mr High Ping, or Mr Drifter..? As far as I'm aware, that isn't turned on by default though is it? At least, I don't think it is on Windows 7, as none of my flash drives have ever auto-run anything, but I could be wrong. Good advice none the less. 

      Agreed, Chrome is the safest way to go. By the way, about 60% of MUO viewers use Firefox 4!

  22. Jason
    June 5, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Good advice all except number 2. Sorry, but this is completely false and has
    been since folks stopped using IE6. Firefox has has the most security holes
    according to all legatimate third-parties that track vulnerabilities (like
    Secunia) and has been for some time now. Even so, it's not the browsers
    themselves that are attacked any more, its add-in like Java and Flash which
    account for the vast majority of exploits on the web.

    • James Bruce
      June 6, 2011 at 7:41 am

      Well, note that I recommend Chrome, which has yet to be hacked. However, it's the sad truth that many people DO still use IE6 - and it's not purely on vulnerability that I would recommend not using any version of IE, it's because as a web developer I'm sick of writing exceptions and having to include javascript fixes for that crap browser. The world would be better off without it. 

      But that's an excellent point you make about flash and java being the vulnerable culprits. I deactivate flash on most of my browsers, but then again I dont use youtube. Hopefully html5 video embed will kill flash entirely. 

      • Eric.N
        June 9, 2011 at 2:49 am

        Hey James - good practical advice. I would maybe add in having ad removal plugins too - simple to do and and can definitely save a couple of people. Also a note about Chrome - it has been hacked. Here are two examples: (I believe that this hasn't been independently verified by Google but, Vupen is a serious security group who demonstrated a couple of Safari vulnerabilities). Also Phil Haack and Scott Hanselman demonstrated 
        a CSRF attack
        in chrome (this was a while ago - and has probably been patched at this point) - incidentally Chrome was the only browser where this attack worked. (around the 30 min mark).

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