Had I not had a a husband who knows his computer ass from his elbow, it would have cost me a fortune to get it sorted by a suitably qualified geek. Even with Tony on tap it was pretty stressful – being without a computer felt like losing a limb!
How can you protect your machine from viruses, malware and other scary beasts?
The obvious answer is antivirus software. And it’s best to pay for it. At a cost of £30-ish a year it’s well worth the investment. In my experience the free versions are never quite as good and don’t come with all the necessary bells and whistles.
Sadly, things can still go wrong even if you’ve installed protection. That’s what happened to me, and it was a bugger to unravel. Protection isn’t enough – you also need to be vigilant.
20 tips for keeping your computer secure
- choose an antivirus product with real-time live protection as well as scans
- pick one with a firewall to keep hackers out. While the Windows operating system comes with a firewall built in it’s comparatively basic, the bare minimum – make sure it’s turned on via the control panel/security area
- choose an antivirus product with spyware/malware removal. For belt-and-braces protection, add a specialist tool like MalwareBytes or SpyBot, which provide a useful level of permanent immunity
- set your anti-virus software so it updates itself automatically at least once a day – because hackers and mischief makers work had to stay ahead of virus protection, you need to keep yours bang up to date
- set it to scan your machine every day and enable all the features
- make sure your anti virus software can be set to automatically scan external devices like USB drives and SD cards to check they’re clean
- always install Operating System updates (your operating system will probably be either Windows or Linux) straight away
- don’t download pictures from Google images. They can contain malware, hidden inside the image code
- Choose a mainstream browser eg. Firefox, Google Chrome, Windows Explorer. They all have extra security built in and Google Chrome was widely praised as the best in 2012
- install an add-on to your internet browser that shows you which websites you can trust via an icon. Good anti-virus software often includes this feature, which reduces the likelihood of clicking on dodgy links and accidentally installing something horrid
- never open a spammy email. Delete them unread and don’t even hover your mouse over them
- don’t open email attachments unless you’re 100% certain they’re safe. If you don’t know who it’s from, ignore it
- never download anything from a website unless you can trust the source completely
- steer clear of porn sites!
- dream up the strongest possible passwords. Make them random and include symbols as well as letters, numbers and upper/lower case. Use a minimum of 12 characters
- create a fresh password for every online account so if hackers break into one they can’t get into every account you’ve ever set up: Facebook, Ebay, Amazon, online shops, your bank account…
- back everything up at the end of the day so if your PC goes belly up you haven’t lost the lot
- make up your own name for your wireless network instead of using the manufacturer’s default
- encrypt your wireless router. Look in the manual and find out how to enable WPA2 encryption
- protect your connection with a strong password so nobody can access it except yourself
If that lot makes you feel faint, it may be worth finding someone to set it all up for you. It’ll be much cheaper in the long run than trying to untangle the nasties if something goes wrong. Ask around friends and family to see if they can recommend someone trustworthy and cheap, try your online social network communities, email or phone your local community centre or ask in your nearest computer shop.