Simple Ways for Avoiding Malware

Laptop secured with chain and padlock to avoid malware

Avoiding malware, spyware, and computer viruses should be a top priority for everyone. Hackers and thieves continuously come up with new ways to infect your computer. Recently, major websites: the Huffington Post, FHM, LA Weekly, Houston Press, and GameZone, were targeted. Hackers are slipping malware into legitimate-looking online advertisements. Outdated web browsers get infected! When you visit sites that serve those ads, you’re automatically and unknowingly downloading computer viruses. CNN Money has an excellent article about Malvertising

Prevention First

The best ways for avoiding malware infection:

  • Keep your browser of choice (mine in order are: Mozilla FirefoxGoogle Chrome; and on my iPhone and iPad, Safari) and your operating system (i.e., Windows, Linux, macOS, etc.) current and updated, and,
  • Endpoint Protection: a fancy computer term for “antivirus software.” Make sure you have a currently licensed and daily updated program installed. There are both free and paid versions of most endpoint products. More on that below, and,
  • Don’t click on ads on websites, especially if they say anything about the security of your computer. REBOOT YOUR COMPUTER IMMEDIATELY when anything other than your known anti-virus product pops up on your screen warning you that you are infected.

Most Common Method of Infection

E-Mail Attachments are the most common way malware is spread. I tell anyone who will listen,

Do not open any e-mail attachments unless you are 110% sure of what the file is, and you were expecting to get the file.

Danny Powell

This last week, I had to do a total format/reload of a laptop for an oil field service. One of the employees had opened an e-mail attachment that claimed to be from UPS about an invoice. The malware installed was Cryptolocker, a malware program deemed “The Worst Computer Virus In 10 Years“. This is a pretty fair assessment because Cryptolocker destroys all the files on your computer by encrypting all the data. The actual malware is removable from the computer, but usually, the only way to recover the files is to pay the ransom or recover your data from some backup. (Cold storage backups are the best defense against this).

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Avoiding malware, spyware, and computer viruses

Hackers, thieves, criminals, and other nefarious types never stop looking for ways to access your computer. Since they are always looking for a new in, it’s nearly impossible to guarantee 100% that they never will; however, here are some practical tips that will make you a much harder target for them.

  1. Make sure you have an anti-virus /anti-malware product installed on your computer and make sure it is current. At least once per week, I clean up a laptop that HAD a paid, good, anti-virus / anti-malware program installed with an expired subscription.
  2. I recommend using a paid product because they tend to offer a lot more security, but if that’s outside your price range, an excellent free solution is Bitdefender Free.
    1. Avoid Microsoft © Security Essentials. Even Microsoft © recommends that!
    2. Ask me for my recommendations for an acceptable paid product.
  3. Turn on Automatic Updates on the computer. You need to be sure the device is on to receive the updates.  Instructions to turn on Automatic Updates in Windows.
  4. Set your Adobe products to update automatically. If you have any doubts, update them manually, and then set the option to automatically update.
  5. Make sure to update JAVA. Java is another program that has an update agent installed with the program; however, Java doesn’t automatically update, it just tells you when an update is available.
  6. Be vigilant with your e-mail. NEVER open an attachment in an e-mail unless you are 110% sure what it is, who sent it, and that you were expecting it.
    1. If the e-mail is from a peer, you can ask that person if they intended to send you the attachment.
    2. If the e-mail is from a vendor, contact the vendor in your usual manner to confirm they sent you an attachment. Remember the case above of Cryptolocker coming in through an e-mail from “UPS”!
  7. Back up your files. You should have at least one, and preferably two, backup solutions. The first should be a cloud-based solution that backs up daily. A second backup should be an external hard drive that you back up to at least once a month and not permanently connected to your network.

If you do get a malware infection, Pineywoods Computer provides complete removal at an affordable price.

Pineywoods Computer
411 East Main St
Nacogdoches, TX 75961
(936) 234-1259

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