Protect Your Computer from Hackers and Viruses

This guide was motivated by a situation I ran into while visiting a cousin in India. Since I am in the IT area, she asked me to have a look at her computer as it was acting “funny”. The”funny” part was that the computer will automatically restart whenever you attempted to install ANY software onto it or download any program from the Internet.

The first thing I discovered was that there were no anti-virus applications installed on the computer, so my first goal was to set up an anti-virus program and check for viruses. However, of course, the virus which was already on the computer wouldn’t allow me to download or install anything! To make a long story short (and I mean a very long story), there were 2256 viruses on the computer and 110 cases of malware and spyware. I haven’t heard of such a ridiculous number of viruses on a computer before!

The majority of the viruses on the computer were hidden in files that were downloaded from the Internet: videos, music, and movies. I was incredibly surprised that the computer lasted for two years with that many viruses! So I gave my dear cousin a significant lesson in how to protect her computer from the hazards of the Internet and I’ll go through them here for anyone else who might be interested!

This is by no means a comprehensive list, so if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to comment and I will add them!

Steps to Avoid Viruses & Malware

Install Anti-Virus Software — This shouldn’t even need to be listed because in the event you don’t have some anti-virus software installed, you are asking for trouble! If your reason for installing anti-virus applications is because it is too expensive, then reason can be taken down because there are many free anti-virus programs out there that are considered better than commercial software.

Update All Software — Installing an anti-virus program alone is inadequate. There are hundreds of new dangers that are discovered daily and the anti-virus programs release upgrades regularly to combat these new threats. Ensure that your antivirus program is set to update automatically so you don’t need to rely on your memory to perform it. Additionally, this goes for all of the applications on your computer. The main software to maintain up to date is the Windows operating system. It’s crucial to have Automatic Updates turned on and set to download and install updates automatically.

Install just Trusted Software — If you are not certain what a piece of software does from its name, then do not install it. Also, don’t install anything you did not intend to install in the first location. Sometimes programs will ask you to set up different programs during the install of the first application. Be careful of this because it is usually spyware. If you are installing applications from big names websites like Microsoft or Adobe, you are good. For anything else, you should first get it scanned. The simplest way to do this is to use an online tool such as VirusTotal, which enables you to upload a document for scanning or allows you to enter the URL you want to be checked.

Prevent P2P File Sharing Software — When used with great caution, P2P applications are quite helpful for movies, music, and applications, but if you are not very technically savvy, you could end up downloading a song which has a keystroke logger attached that will send whatever you type to another computer over the Internet. It’s nearly impossible to tell that this is happening unless your antivirus or anti-spyware programs pick this up in their own scans. If you don’t understand what you are doing, do not attempt to torrent.

Delete Unknown Emails — If you get emails from random people, don’t bother to open the email, simply delete it. For those who have any doubts after reading the title and the subject, it is probably not somebody you know. Never open or download attachments unless you’re sure it is from someone you know. Give the person a call immediately and inquire if you are not sure. Most large companies that you create online accounts will not send you attachments unless you specifically request them via their website. In addition, be wary of any emails from websites pretending to be banks, auction websites, etc. requesting you to confirm bank account info or speech info.

Additionally, hackers attempt to prey on your own emotions. If something seems too good to be true, i.e. you won any money or free holiday, then it likely is. Secondly, if you receive an email from the IRS or police or a lawyer or anyone else trying to frighten you, do not panic and start giving out information. All of these are usually scams since no official agency emails people about serious issues.