How to protect your computer from viruses
Worried about the NHS cyber-attack? Protect yourself with these top tips…
The recent cyber-attack that hit the NHS is a timely reminder to keep on top of your antivirus and software updates. Some 48 NHS trusts were affected, while globally there were said to be more than 200,000 victims of the ransomware attack.
Get the lowdown on ransomware, and how you can avoid falling victim to it, with our guide.
What is ransomware?
The attack that dominated headlines on the TV, in papers and online was a type of ransomware called WannaCry.
The first thing you know about being a victim of ransomware is when a pop-up appears telling you your files are locked unless you pay the money. You may have seen pictures of this on affected NHS computers in the news or on TV.
How can you stay safe?
Well first things first, only Windows computers are affected by this ransomware, and it was aimed at big business rather than everyday people. Home users are believed to be ‘low risk’, according to the BBC. But why take any risk? The below steps are super-simple ways to stay secure.
1. Upgrade to Windows 10
If you had a laptop or PC in the early noughties it was likely running Windows XP. Early reports suggested some victims of the WannaCry ransomware attack were still using XP.
Though this link has since been played down, it’s still worth pointing out that Microsoft stopped providing official security updates and fixes for XP in 2014. It warned at the time that anyone using it would face increased risk of infection. Whether you’re running XP or Windows 7, it’s time to upgrade to Windows 10.
2. Always have the latest Windows security updates
Once you’ve got Windows 10, make sure you’re up to date. Set your preferences to regularly check for updates, and always install them when they’re available.
3. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date
High-quality antivirus software is your first line of defence. Once installed, it can automatically remove any attacks on your system and block infected emails. There are two main types:
- Antivirus software – provides a basic level of protection, and will scan and remove viruses and related malware
- Internet Security suites – give you additional levels of protection such as automatic checking of email and downloads, spam filters, parental controls and anti-phishing software
4. Be careful opening email attachments
Don’t open that email… unless you’re sure of its authenticity. In response to the cyber-attack, NHS Wales blocked emails from outside senders – automatically deleting anything that came from outside the organisation. Viruses and other types of malware often disguise themselves as ordinary files. So be extra careful when opening emails or attachments.
5. Turn your firewall on
Your computer's firewall controls what has access to and from your computer. This will block access to untrustworthy files and websites and can alert you if a virus tries to hack into your computer.
Although Windows and Apple OS come with a basic firewall, you can also use the one that comes with your antivirus software for maximum protection.
6. Keep your passwords secure
Nowadays we store much of our personal information like banking details and credit card information online – so it’s important that your online passwords are safe.