How to protect your computer from viruses
Find out how to keep your computer safe from viruses, Trojans, worms and ransomware attacks with our guide…
Viruses, worms, Trojans, and ransomware. There's all sorts of vicious malware out there that has the potential to attack your computer.
It’s typically always been Windows machines that are most at risk. But in the past few years we’ve seen bugs like the KeyRanger virus infecting Macs too.
The most common types of threat are:
- Viruses – a program that damages your computer’s files and folders. It’s spread over the internet and through email attachments
- Trojans – a file that’s hidden inside a file or program that looks real. Trojans install spyware or adware on your machine and leak your personal files without you knowing
- Worms – work their way onto your computer through an open internet connection. They’re often used to send spam emails from your account
- Ransomware attack – cyber criminals hack into your computer and stop it working by using malicious software that encrypts your data. They usually won’t hand back control until you pay a fee
How can you protect your computer?
There are several measures you can take to help prevent attacks on your computer.
1. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date
- High-quality antivirus software is your first line of defence against this type of threat. 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
Tip: make sure to update and run your antivirus software every couple of weeks to detect new threats
2. Check you have the latest security updates for Windows or Mac
By keeping your security system up to date you’re always on top of new threats. The easiest way to do this is with Windows or Apple OS security updates.
Make sure you have your preferences set to regularly check for updates, and always install them when they’re available.
Tip for Windows users: If you’re still using Internet Explorer versions 8, 9 or 10 you’ll want to upgrade to IE 11 or Edge as Microsoft is no longer supporting them. That means you won’t automatically be protected online.
3. 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.
4. Be careful downloading files and opening email attachments
Viruses and other types of malware often disguise themselves as ordinary files. So before you open any downloaded files or email attachments, make sure to scan them – even if they’ve come from people you know.
5. 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.
If you find that you are no longer able to access your images and documents on your computer it’s likely you’ve been infected with ransomware. A pop-up demanding money to access your files will appear – usually with a deadline and a threat of deletion.
Make sure you report the incident with your local cybercrime unit or you can report it through ActionFraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre.
6. Never attempt to log onto your accounts if you think your computer may have a virus.
Instead, change your passwords as soon as you can from a secure computer, and don't use the same password for multiple accounts.
7. Protect your smartphone from viruses
It’s not just computers – did you know your smartphone could also be at risk? Over 10million Android phones have been infected by the HummingBad virus in recent months.
What is the HummingBad virus? A type of malware that roots itself in your phone’s operating system. From there it takes control of your device – using it to generate fake clicks for ads and install apps without your permission.
How do I know if I’ve got it?
Download an antivirus app and run a scan of your phone. AVG, which also makes antivirus software for computers, is one of these.
How to get rid of it?
Just like you would with a computer, keep your phone’s OS up to date and install security updates when they become available. The latest version of Android is Nougat
It also goes without saying that you should only ever download apps from trusted stores like Google Play.