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Malware is an attack that attempts to take control of a computer and steal sensitive information, such as passwords or bank information. There are three basic forms of malware: viruses, worms, and hacks. Viruses are the easiest to spot and can lead to problems such as causing your computer to freeze up, barraging your computer with pop-up ads and even taking your computer offline. Hackers can also use malware to steal data from your computer and use it for their own profit.
The good news? There are steps you can take to help protect your computer and your personal information. Here are five easy things you can do to avoid computer viruses.
Tip #1: Use antivirus software
If you don't have one already, install an antivirus software program, such as Malwarebytes. This can help protect your computer from viruses and malware. Malwarebytes scans your computer for programs known to be harmful, notifies you if any are found and then removes them from your computer.
Tip #2: Keep your operating system up-to-date
The best way to protect your computer against viruses is by keeping the operating system up-to-date. This will ensure that there are no known vulnerabilities in the operating system that can allow hackers to exploit them for their own purposes. Viruses and malware are constantly being created, so developers frequently update safeguards in operating systems in order to stave off cybercriminals.
Tip #3: Only download apps from trusted websites
When downloading a new app, make sure you only download from trusted sources. To ensure you’re getting the real deal, you can always check that the app developer’s name matches the name of the company listed on the app’s store page.
Tip #4: Avoid opening attachments or clicking links from unknown sources
Always double check attachments before opening them. Never download or click on links in emails or social media posts unless they come directly from someone or a business you know and trust. Hackers like to trick people into clicking on links by impersonating friends, colleagues or family members, or even government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service. "If you know how to spot [these spoof accounts], however, you’ll be able to avoid falling victim to this type of cybercrime," George Birrell, a certified public accountant and founder of TaxHub, tells Yahoo Life. "Look for all the hidden inaccuracies, [such as] spelling errors, inaccurate web addresses, strange questions asked, etc."
Birrell encourages his clients to exercise caution when navigating the web. "The way that you behave can have a big impact on your internet safety," he cautions.
Tip #5: Change passwords often
A lot of people think that hackers only target big companies because they’re the ones who have the most to lose, but that’s not always the case. Hackers love easy targets because they’re less likely to change passwords frequently and they’re less likely to be able to detect a breach. So keep changing your passwords every few months at least, or consider using a password manager to create and store stronger passwords.