If you’ve ever gotten a computer virus, you know how badly it can derail your work, Internet surfing and even your saved files. From spyware that transmits personal information to scammers and viruses that simply destroy your hard drive, you should make it your personal mission to avoid viruses online. Since the Internet is the easiest way to catch a computer virus, you have to be extra vigilant when it comes to lowering your risk for getting infected. Just like when it’s cold and flu season, you can lower your risk by being prepared and educated so you aren’t caught with a nasty virus.
Install an antivirus. This is Internet 101. All computers should have a good-quality antivirus program, no matter their make or model, according to TechRepublic. Here’s the thing: an antivirus program can perform daily scans to catch viruses before they can be a problem as well as scan documents and other downloads for possible infections before you authorize their download to your computer. While it can sometimes seem as though antivirus programs are bothersome – you’ve probably had one try and scan when you were busy using your machine – resist the temptation to get rid of them altogether. Whether you grab a free version online or you use the software that came with your computer, it adds a layer of protection for you and your files.
Be download smart. Look, you probably aren’t going to win a free iPad if you click on a link, so be smart about what and where you download antivirus software. Scammers usually use incentives like free products to hook you in so you unknowingly infect your own computer. If you’ve never heard of the website or it’s promising something that is too good to be true, exit the page immediately and you’ll save yourself a huge headache.
Check your email. Viruses can travel through emails that look like messages from reputable sources. From friends and family members to your official-sounding bank, scammers can hack accounts and structure emails to make them look legit. That’s why it’s important to scan downloads before you add them to your computer, even if the picture from your aunt’s trip to Hawaii or your dad’s recommendation of a website looks like the real deal. Or, send a message back to see if you get a reply to make sure it’s the real person sending the message. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry and out of commission with an infected machine.