How to avoid computer viruses and other nasties
Even if you have anti-virus software to tackle adware, spyware, trojans, worms and every conceivable type of malware, you still can't afford to get complacent or careless. The most common (and easily avoidable) ways in which people let their machines get infected are:
- Opening email attachments from suspicious, unknown or unsolicited sources (and sometimes even from people they know and trust)
- Installing dodgy software (either pirated copies or downloaded from sketchy websites)
- Using infected USB sticks
- Browsing the internet with an old operating system and browser
- Clicking phishing links on social media and in emails
Cut out or cut down on these risky activities and you will dramatically reduce your exposure to malware.
Reducing the risk
There are several more things you can actively do to reduce risk even further:
Keep your operating system up to date
- Always install the latest security updates.
Install anti-virus software
- Sophos is free for all University members.
- Be sure to keep your antivirus up to date.
- Run an antivirus scan on a regular basis to make sure that nothing has crept in.
Install the latest updates to your web browser and other software
- If your software has an option to install updates automatically, turn it on.
- Never ignore messages telling you that new updates are available. Make the time to install them.
Change your operating system or software if they are no longer supported
- You wouldn't drive your car if it failed it's MOT, would you? Don't use software which is no longer supported.
Make sure the firewall installed on your machine is activated
- Your firewall is there to protect you from attackers on the Internet. You should never turn it off.
- Sometimes, you may find that specific pieces of software need access through your firewall in order to work properly. Make sure to only give them the access they need and no more.
Never install pirated software
- Once you've installed pirated software there's no telling what it could do. Don't trust it.
- Only download and install software from reputable sources.
Log in as a ‘normal user’ to your computer
- Working as an administrator can make it easier for malware to get inside your machine.
- Create a second account to be the administrator and only use it when you actually need it.
More good tips to protect your computer
Back up your data. Schedule regular updates to a portable hard drive/storage device using, for example, Windows Backup or Mac Time Machine. Or use secure online cloud storage, such as OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox. And encrypt your backups.
Lock your screen whenever you leave your desk – you could give an opportunistic thief access to your usernames, passwords and other personal details.
Encrypt your laptop so that, if it’s stolen or lost, no one can get at your personal data. You can do this with either Windows Bitlocker or Mac Filevault.