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Keeping your computer clean isn’t just smart: it’s your civic duty. Here’s why.

If your computer is malware-ridden, it’s not just slowing you down. It could infect machines used by your friends and family, putting them at risk. It’s even possible your computer is being used by hackers to wage attacks on others, all without your knowledge.

We often talk about computer security in personal terms. Defend yourself from computer crimes Top Five Computer Crimes & How to Protect Yourself From Them Top Five Computer Crimes & How to Protect Yourself From Them Read More , we say, appealing to your sense of self-interest. But keeping your computer clean isn’t just about your security. In an interconnected world, your security affects everyone else’s – and particularly that of the people you’re close to.

Here are ways an infected computer can affect the people around you, the company you work for and even the world.

You Could Be Infecting Your Friends, Family And Co-Workers

No one wants to be the guy who gets everyone else sick.

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You probably know the common sense ways to avoid catching malware 7 Common Sense Tips to Help You Avoid Catching Malware 7 Common Sense Tips to Help You Avoid Catching Malware The Internet has made a lot possible. Accessing information and communicating with people from far away has become a breeze. At the same time, however, our curiosity can quickly lead us down dark virtual alleys... Read More – things like not downloading software from sites you don’t trust, and scanning email attachments before you open them. But did you know some malware can spread infections via a USB drive? Or a WiFi network?

This means, if your computer isn’t clean, you could be putting others at risk. Every time you use a flash drive to share a file, you might be spreading malware. Every time you ask a friend for their WiFi password, you might be sharing malware.

Sure, there are steps your friends could take to use a jump drive securely 5 Tips On How To Use A Jump Drive Without Corrupting Your Data 5 Tips On How To Use A Jump Drive Without Corrupting Your Data A jump drive, also known as a flash drive, thumb drive, memory stick, or simply USB drive, is a tiny but powerful storage device. Flash drives are cheap, small, come with sufficient storage for big... Read More , and there are firewalls your friends could set up to stop your computer from infecting theirs over WiFi. But if you keep your computer clean, they won’t have anything to worry about.

You Could Be Part Of A Botnet

If you don’t keep your computer secure, it could turn into a zombie computer. This means that, without your knowledge, your computer could be hard at work doing a hacker’s bidding.

A network of zombie computers is called a botnet, and they do all sorts of nasty things for people who mean ill. Best case scenario, your computer is making someone else rich by mining BitCoins What Is Bitcoin: The MakeUseOf BitCoin Guide What Is Bitcoin: The MakeUseOf BitCoin Guide Whether you just want to find out more about BitCoin or to actually use the currency, you'll want to check out "Virtual Currency: The BitCoin Guide", the latest manual from author Lachlan Roy. Read More  without your knowledge. Worst case, your computer is being used to send out spam emails, or launch DDoS attacks What Is a DDoS Attack? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is a DDoS Attack? [MakeUseOf Explains] The term DDoS whistles past whenever cyber-activism rears up its head en-masse. These kind of attacks make international headlines because of multiple reasons. The issues that jumpstart those DDoS attacks are often controversial or highly... Read More .

Put simply: the people who make malware aren’t just doing so to have fun. Some of them want to use your computer for their own purposes, meaning your negligence is helping someone else make the Internet a worse place. Keeping your computer clean is the best way to prevent this.

Concerned that your PC might be a zombie? Check our guide to zombie computers Is Your PC A Zombie? And What's a Zombie Computer, Anyway? [MakeUseOf Explains] Is Your PC A Zombie? And What's a Zombie Computer, Anyway? [MakeUseOf Explains] Have you ever wondered where all of the Internet spam comes from? You probably receive hundreds of spam-filtered junk emails every day. Does that mean there are hundreds and thousands of people out there, sitting... Read More to make sure you’re secure.

You Could Be Embarrassing Yourself – And Your Friends

This is a little bit of self interest, sure, but stay with me. Infecting someone else’s computer not only puts them at risk: it’s also potentially embarrassing. If your friends, family or co-workers find out they got infected because of your negligence, it isn’t going to reflect well on you.

This is particularly true if you got that malware while browsing xHamster How To Remove The Bedep Malware From XHamster How To Remove The Bedep Malware From XHamster Adult site xHamster has been spreading a huge amount of malware, with a 1500% increase in infections over a two day period in January 2015. Is your computer infected? And how can you stay safe? Read More , but even if the infection isn’t porn-related you’ll still have egg on your face. And that could have serious repercussions.

For example: if a piece of malware infects your email software, and sends a spam message to everyone in your address book, that could make you look stupid in front of everyone you know. If you’re looking for a job right now, this could seriously hurt your chances of getting the position.

Even worse: if your negligence ends up infecting a friend’s computer, you might be responsible for them not getting a job.

This is why it’s important to keep your computer clean: it can save you, and the people you care about, a lot of embarrassment.

Keep Your Computer Clean! It’s The Right Thing To Do

You don’t skip washing your hands; don’t skip keeping your computer clean, either.

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Your security choices don’t just affect you. We’re all in this together, and what you do affects other people.

Our advice: replace Microsoft Security Essentials Why You Should Replace Microsoft Security Essentials With A Proper Antivirus Why You Should Replace Microsoft Security Essentials With A Proper Antivirus Read More with something better. Avast is a solid, free choice Stay Protected From Every Type Of Malware With Avast Free Antivirus Stay Protected From Every Type Of Malware With Avast Free Antivirus Comprehensive malware protection doesn't need to cost a fortune. Many reputable free antivirus programs are equally effective as paid ones, and avast! Free Antivirus stands with the best Windows antivirus programs. Read More if you’re not sure what to use.

Mac users, don’t go thinking you’re off the hook: your Mac could have a virus too I Think My Mac Has A Virus! 3 Ways You Can Tell I Think My Mac Has A Virus! 3 Ways You Can Tell Is your Mac acting kind of... weird? Whether you're seeing adverts you can't explain, or your system is unreasonably slow, you might think the problem is malware. But you're probably wrong. Read More . Make sure you have some way to scan for malware – Sophos for Mac is a well-reviewed free option.

If you find out that you are infected, take the steps required to clean everything up 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer We would like to think that the Internet is a safe place to spend our time (cough), but we all know there are risks around every corner. Email, social media, malicious websites that have worked... Read More . It’s the right thing to do.

How do you keep your computer clean? Are there other ways a malware-ridden computer can negatively affect the world? Let’s talk about all this and more in the comments below.

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