10 easy tips to help you avoid viruses

As time goes on, viruses just get more complex, harder to identify and there’s just a lot more of them.  It could be a punk kid testing out his programming skills and wants to see if he/she can make the news.  It could be a company that is tired of hackers pirating their software.  Either way, a virus is not something you want and can be costly to get rid of it.  Whether you’re paying a local computer company to fix it, or you’re wasting time trying to do it yourself, it’s still a costly experience in some sense of the word.  It’s important to stay informed of what some of the new tactics are and how you can avoid them.

Here’s my top 10 list of tips on how you can avoid viruses:

Learn how to identify viruses.  They come in many forms and it’s important to know the signs.  If it’s a website or an email, make sure the source is truly who you believe it to be.  You need to second guess everything online now.

  1. The obvious – Make sure you have anti-virus software installed and working.  You’d be surprised how many people have no clue their anti-virus software either expired, disappeared, or stopped scanning.  You need to make sure you not only have an anti-virus program installed, but that it is doing daily updates and scheduled scans including real time protection.
  2. As a spin off from point #1 above, if you have a Mac, don’t be ignorant, Macs get viruses too.  Many people believe this myth that Macs don’t get viruses.  They do get them, and if you don’t have virus protection and think you are totally safe and start doing all the things we say to avoid below in our other tips, you are guaranteed to get a virus.  Also, incase you didn’t  think it was possible, your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, or any other smartphone or tablet can all get viruses.  Actually, anything that connects to the Internet, including your fridge can get a virus.  All a virus is, is a program that tells that device to do something.  Something bad!
  3. Make sure you are running your Windows updates.  Yes, if you have a Mac, there will be Mac OS updates as well.  These updates include security patches to fix wholes that they found which hackers can exploit to gain access to your computer, tablet or smart phone.  Update regularly.
  4. Update everything!  Besides Windows updates, check www.adobe.com for the latest Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash.  Also, www.Java.com will give you the latest Java updates, although many experts are saying to just uninstall Java and not use it at all.  That’s a whole other issue I wrote about here on getting rid of Java.  Be sure to check in your list of installed programs and uninstall old versions of Java.  Even though you may have updated it, you still most likely have old versions installed and can become a victim of a Java Exploit.
  5. Don’t open emails from people you don’t know.  Anyone?  In the early days of email, we could simply say “Don’t open attachments in emails from people you don’t know”.  Now we can’t say that because you could receive an email from someone you know that is a virus.  However, it only looks like it came from your friend.  Really it did not come from them, it came from someone else pretending to be them.  This is called spoofing.  If the email looks like your friend would never send something like that, don’t click on the link or attachment.  Instead, either delete the email, or reply back to them saying “I think you might have a virus or have been hacked, you didn’t send me this email right?”
  6. Banks will never email you saying there’s a problem with your account and to “click  here” to login.  With that said, now that banks offered email money transfers, you have to be careful.  After writing an article about it, I received a spam message saying someone sent me money, but it was a trick.  Never click on an email from your bank and if you are expecting an email money transfer, be sure to verify it’s from someone who you are expecting money from and the amount matches.  Also, you will need to call that person anyway to get the password.  If all checks out, then go ahead click on that link and collect your money.
  7. Identifying suspicious links in an email.  You may receive an email that seems totally legit.  Maybe from UPS for example, and you are expecting a parcel, and UPS does send emails like this, which makes it even harder to know for sure.  Don’t be too quick to click on the link.  If you see www.ups.com  for example in the email, hover the mouse over it and you might see something else like www.fakeurl.com  If the website addresses don’t match, don’t click on it.  If they do match, it’s going to where you think it is.  But then again, look closer.  Is it taking you to UPS.com or UP5.com?  Look closer.
  8. I know it’s a hard habit to break, but don’t download pirated software, movies or music!  You’re guaranteed to download a virus real soon.
  9. Microsoft will never call you or email you!  I’ve gotten so many calls from people that have received calls from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, BELL or other firm like this that says they have identified problems on their computer and they would like remote control access to their computer to fix it for them.  If anyone calls you saying they can tell you have problems on your computer and need to fix it, tell them not to call again or you will report them, and then hang up.  I’ve had some hang up soon as they are questioned, and I’ve heard some give my clients a call back number, I called them, they answered many of my questions even long after identifying myself as a technician.  Real cocky some of them!  More on this Microsoft scam in a previous article here.
    They either want to trick you into spending money unnecessarily, or get access to your files to plant a virus or steal your identity.
  10. Delete your temporary files regularly.  Many times I find viruses hiding in temp files.  Delete your temporary Internet files via your browser that you use, your user profile temp files (ie. C:UsersAlfalfaAppDatalocaltemp) and your windows temp files (ie. C:Windowstemp).
  11. As an extra precaution, if you use your computer for business and can not afford to be down, get on a regular monthly maintenance plan with your local computer company, or if they don’t offer one, you can contact Twinbytes for details.