How To Protect Your Computer From Computer Virus
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Last Updated on July 14, 2021 by Gabriel Goddy
If you’ve experienced a computer virus case, or in a worse case, a computer crash, you’d know how frustrating it could feel. However, being proactive to prevent your computer from getting a virus is the best thing to do. In this guide, we’ll tell you how you can prevent a computer virus.
What Is A Computer Virus?
A computer virus is a malicious software program loaded onto a user’s computer without the user’s knowledge and performs malicious actions.
A virus operates by inserting or attaching itself to a legitimate program or document that supports macros to execute its code. In the process, a virus has the potential to cause unexpected or damaging effects, such as harming the system software by corrupting or destroying data.
How does a computer virus attack?
Once a virus has successfully attached to a program, file, or document, the virus will lie dormant until circumstances cause the computer or device to execute its code. For a virus to infect your computer, you have to run the infected program, which in turn causes the virus code to be executed.
This means that a virus can remain dormant on your computer, without showing major signs or symptoms. However, once the virus infects your computer, the virus can infect other computers on the same network. Stealing passwords or data, logging keystrokes, corrupting files, spamming your email contacts, and even taking over your machine are just some of the devastating and irritating things a virus can do.
While some viruses can be playful in intent and effect, others can have profound and damaging effects. This includes erasing data or causing permanent damage to your hard disk. Worse yet, some viruses are designed with financial gains in mind.
How do computer viruses spread?
In a constantly connected world, you can contract a computer virus in many ways, some more obvious than others. Viruses can be spread through email and text message attachments, Internet file downloads, and social media scam links.
Your mobile devices and smartphones can become infected with mobile viruses through shady App downloads. Viruses can hide disguised as attachments of socially shareable content such as funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files.
To avoid contact with a virus, it’s important to exercise caution when surfing the web, downloading files, and opening links or attachments. To help stay safe, never download text or email attachments that you’re not expecting, or files from websites you don’t trust.
What are the signs of a computer virus?
A computer virus attack can produce a variety of symptoms. Here are some of them:
- Frequent pop-up windows. Pop-ups might encourage you to visit unusual sites. Or they might prod you to download antivirus or other software programs.
- Changes to your homepage. Your usual homepage may change to another website, for instance. Plus, you may be unable to reset it.
- Mass emails being sent from your email account. A criminal may take control of your account or send emails in your name from another infected computer.
- Frequent crashes. A virus can inflict major damage on your hard drive. This may cause your device to freeze or crash. It may also prevent your device from coming back on.
- Unusually slow computer performance. A sudden change in processing speed could signal that your computer has a virus.
- Unknown programs that startup when you turn on your computer. You may become aware of the unfamiliar program when you start your computer. Or you might notice it by checking your computer’s list of active applications.
- Unusual activities like password changes. This could prevent you from logging into your computer.
Examples of computer viruses
In 2013, the botnet virus Gameover Zeus was discovered to use peer-to-peer downloading sites to distribute ransomware and commit banking fraud. While tens of thousands of computer viruses still roam the internet, they have diversified their methods and are now joined by several malware variants like:
- Worms – A worm is a type of virus that, unlike traditional viruses, usually does not require the action of a user to spread from device to device.
- Trojans – As in the myth, a Trojan is a virus that hides within a legitimate-seeming program to spread itself across networks or devices.
- Ransomware – Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a user’s files and demands a ransom for its return. Ransomware can be, but isn’t necessarily, spread through computer viruses.
How To Prevent Computer Virus
- Use Strong Passwords
Let’s start with the basics—your passwords.
The most commonly used passwords in the cyber world are also the worst. As of 2018, the top 3 passwords in use were:
And people wonder why we have security breaches everywhere?
Keep your data safe by creating unique, complex passwords. The best passwords include a mix of numbers, letters, and symbols and are at least 8 characters long.
While we’re on the topic, avoid using the same username and password combination across multiple sites. If a hacker can access just one site, you’ve left the door wide open to the rest of your data.
- Keep Everything up to Date
Another basic step to take is to make sure you have the latest versions of all software installed on your devices.
Why is this so important? Because software updates include features designed to withstand the latest security threats. Microsoft, Oracle, and other makers regularly update their software to eliminate “bugs” that hackers could exploit.
If you’re operating a system from 3 years ago, it’s defenseless against any viruses or malware developed in the interim. Make it a habit to install all new software updates as soon as they become available.
- Use Antivirus Software
Next up on our list of how to prevent computer viruses is—no surprise here—antivirus software.
Antivirus software acts as a “vaccine” against virtual viruses. It can identify and eliminate the threat before you were even aware of it.
Microsoft Security Essentials and Avast are both free antivirus programs you can install. There’s also a host of paid options, although experts debate whether the extra cost is really worth it.
- Use a Firewall
Using antivirus programs doesn’t automatically mean you have a firewall.
Macs and PCs both come with pre-installed firewall software. Make sure it’s enabled to provide an extra layer of protection from viruses and malware.
- Install a Popup Blocker
Many attacks happen through browsers, as you’re going about your daily online routine. Hackers can gain access to your computer from one innocent click on the wrong ad or link.
An ad or popup blocker is essential to protecting your computer’s data. It will prevent any unwanted pages from opening automatically.
Never click on, open, or download anything unless you know exactly who it’s from. This is especially important with emails, which is our next topic.
- Beware of Email Phishing Scams
32% of reported security breaches begin with a phishing scam.
These appear in email form under the guise of a legitimate company. The goal is to get you to either enter personal information or click on an infected link that allows access to your computer.
Any legitimate company will have its own domain name for emails. If an email address claims to be from Paypal or Netflix but ends with @gmail.com, it’s a scam.
Other signs include misspellings, poor grammar, and suspicious attachments, buttons, or links. A legitimate company will never invite you via email to log in and provide personal or billing information
Here’s a good rule to live by—if in doubt, don’t click on it!
- Educate Your Family & Staff
Most cyber-attacks happen through an innocent action by an uninformed person.
This could be a member of your family, a child, or an employee who isn’t aware of smart internet practices.
If you have any doubts about anyone who uses your computer, take a few moments to teach them the basics. Review a few points from this post, such as not opening emails or clicking on links from unknown sources.
A few moments of education could mean the difference between cyberattack success or failure.
- Know the Signs of Infection
Despite your best efforts, computer viruses can still happen.
Do you know how to identify a virus on your computer? Here are a few things to watch for:
- Repeated error messages
- Unexpected shutdowns
- The computer suddenly slows down
- Takes too long to shut down or restart
- New toolbars you didn’t install
- Changes to your homepage
- Rapidly draining battery
Any of these signs could mean your computer is infected. If you see more than one of these signs, you almost surely have a virus.
Make sure all your software is updated and then perform a scan. You can also search online forums for users who have similar issues and see how they were able to solve them.
- Consider Additional Security Features
At the very least, you should perform weekly or even daily backups of all important data. Store it securely in the cloud or on a separate hard drive.
That way, if you do accidentally get a virus, your vital information won’t be lost or compromised.
For extra protection, you might also consider advanced security measures like endpoint security. This protects not just your computer but your network as a whole.
How are computer viruses removed?
Antiviruses have made great progress in being able to identify and prevent the spread of computer viruses. When a device does become infected, though, installing an antivirus solution is still your best bet for removing it. Once installed, most software will conduct a “scan” for the malicious program. Once located, the antivirus will present options for its removal. If this is not something that can be done automatically, some security vendors offer a technician’s assistance in removing the virus-free of charge.
Much of the defense starts with you. Use antivirus software and keep your programs and software up to date. You should also be proactive with firewalls, popup blockers, and strong passwords.
Of course, the more your business grows, the more you have to lose. These basic precautions for how to prevent computer viruses are a start.