The internet is a source of endless possibilities in terms of information, entertainment and communication. In recent years, however, it has become more and more obvious that unfortunately there are also numerous possibilities of getting your computer compromised using the internet. Identity theft, viruses, and spyware are the very worst consequences one can suffer from uninformed behavior when it comes to internet use. Fortunately, the chances of being a victim of identity theft or losing all data because of a nasty virus can be significantly decreased by following a few simple rules:
Back up your data
This rule is so simple that it is astonishing that so few people follow it. By backing up your data on a regular basis (daily, weekly, or monthly depending on how often you add new and important data) the effects of a virus are much less devastating. Instead of desperately trying to save the remnants of data after an infection, you can just wipe your machine clean and reinstall all the programs that you had on it without losing a single file. Although this doesn’t prevent a computer from getting a virus, it nullifies its effects.
Internet Explorer has a lot of security gaps and should not be used to surf the internet, instead Mozilla Firefox can be downloaded for free. One of the reasons that Firefox is so much more secure than other internet browsers is because its code is open, so anyone can take a look at it and alert Firefox to a security problem. Some of its features are pop-up blockers, anti phishing (if you are accessing a fraudulent site a message will be sent to you), and automated updates which make sure that you always have the most recent upgrades. In addition to that, Firefox can be supplemented with No Script, which is free software that blocks malicious scripts.
Keep your operating system updated
There is a reason that you are getting alerts from your operating system. The more up to date it is, the less vulnerable to attacks it will be.
The reason that your operating system is equipped with a firewall is to make it more secure. Think of it as a fence around your lawn, which will prevent stray dogs from entering your property.
Use antivirus and anti-spyware programs
Having an antivirus program paired with an anti-spyware program definitely shields your computer from nasty surprises. Some people are put off by the fact that most antivirus programs come at a price. However, paying a fee for an antivirus program is still cheaper than having to get your computer fixed by an expert. On top of that, some of the best software can be downloaded for free like AVG and Ad-Aware.
Set up a spam filter on your email
Email is one of the biggest gateways for viruses to get onto your computer. By using a good email service with an effective spam filter the chance of falling into this trap is much smaller. Spam is not just annoying; it also tries to trick you into accessing unsafe sites or opening infected attachments. A good rule of thumb is not to open any emails that are from an unknown address, because even the best spam filter won’t catch absolutely everything.
Don’t open attachments that end in .exe
Attachments that end in .exe are executable files, meaning something is going to be installed on your computer. Once that is done, it might be close to impossible to get rid of it again. When you receive an email with an .exe attachment don’t open it unless you are expecting it from someone and you know exactly what it contains. When downloading an .exe file, make sure that your source is absolutely safe.
Don’t surf unsavory sites
Even though the prospect of free porn might seem tempting, such sites are often a sure bet when it comes to viruses and spyware. The amounts of pop-ups that these sites generally employ are enormous, which is already an indication for them wanting to confuse you and take advantage of you. Should you encounter a pop-up (Firefox should block them) never press a “yes” or “no” button, but instead try to close the window by using your keyboard. Oftentimes the commands on pop-ups are switched, so that they refer you to their site even if you press “no”.
Use file sharing smartly
Not all file sharing websites are trying to spread viruses, but they sure create the opportunity to do so. Limewire, for example, has been known to be a source for infection. Always look at the file before downloading it, if the file is really small, chances are that it’s not really the song or movie that you are looking to download.
Never give out personal information
This point is absolutely crucial: Never ever give out your personal information on the internet. No bank would ever ask you to give them your personal pin or password. If you are asked to do so, chances are that someone is trying to steal your money. On top of that, make sure that your passwords are safe. Using your first or last name as a password is way too easy, even a child could get at your personal accounts like that.