You’re having coffee with a friend and he tells you his computer has a virus. As you listen and nod sympathetically, perhaps congratulating yourself for managing to avoid the latest worm that’s harming others’ computers, you wonder how your friend could have allowed such a thing to happen.
Simple Protection Is Not Enough
Here’s the thing: you might think that you’re doing enough to protect your PC, but it’s likely you aren’t Simply installing antivirus protection and forgetting about it is not enough. While many antivirus programs do an adequate – even excellent – job keeping harmful programs and malware off of your computer, you might still be a security risk. Failing to properly protect your PC is a lot like leaving the front door to your home wide open while you run errands. You might get lucky, and no one steals anything, or you could be creating a huge risk that will lead to a loss of your personal belongings, or in this case, data.
Top Risky Behaviors
So how do you know if your computer is a security risk, creating the potential to not only lose your data but compromise the computers and data of your colleagues, friends and family? Consider whether any of the following apply to you:
• You ignore security updates from your operating system. In a perfect world, software engineers would create operating systems and software that successfully blocked all attempts at malfeasance and worked properly every time for all eternity. Unfortunately, that’s not reality – and Windows and other software companies regularly release updates to keep their systems running properly. In some cases, the updates will install automatically when you shut down – or force a shutdown to install the updates – but you should still check to make sure you haven’t missed an important one. Click on your Windows Control Panel, then All Control Panel Items, and Windows Update. You’ll be able to see when your system was last updated and any updates that need to be installed.
• You never change your password. You probably know by now that you need to avoid common, or easy to guess, passwords. However, you also need to change it once in a while. You could unknowingly have malware or a keystroke virus that’s monitoring your every move – including your passwords.
• You don’t have adequate security software. You already know you need antivirus software (at least you should.) Confirm that you have the most recent edition, and that you have all of the necessary updates. You also need a firewall; you can use the standard Window firewall or a third party provider.
• You don’t run optimizer software. While you can certainly spent the time to defragment your computer, remove temporary and junk files or look for registry errors, optimizer software can save you time and money. These software programs will remove viruses and malware that can slow down your computer and make it a security risk – and put your personal information and data at risk.
Use Common Sense
While you can install software, updates and change your password regularly, none of that will matter if you don’t use common sense when you’re online. Installing and using the latest edition of your favorite internet browser will help you avoid threats when you’re online, but if you ignore red flags and warnings, you’re creating unnecessary risks.
Computer security experts are continually amazed at the number of people who open and download harmful programs from people they do not know; in short, if you receive an email from someone you do not know with an attachment, delete the message without opening it. If it’s from someone you do know, confirm that they sent you the message. Check the “from” address on any emails that look suspicious and report phishing scams to corporations. In all cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so if you’re in doubt, don’t click.
Keeping your computer safe from harmful viruses and malware or security breaches is not only important to protect your personal data; it’s also the responsible thing to do, to protect others’ computers. Avoid the risky behaviors mentioned above, install the appropriate software, and use common sense, and you’ll avoid trouble.
Author’s Bio: Cameron Matthews is an IT security manager with more than a decade of experience developing security programs. He uses RegCure Pro to keep computers safe and efficient. He also educates the public on how to avoid these situations through his blog.