One of the best benefits of high-speed internet is the ability to stream video, read articles and download information in an instant. Unfortunately, internet speeds and overall computer performance can become threatened when a hard drive is overwhelmed by malware and viruses.
There are plenty of online safety measures you can take to minimize the risk of viruses, spyware and malware making their way onto your computer. Likewise, there are steps you can take to get rid of viruses and malware after an infection has already happened.
Learning more about the types of online threats capable of slowing down your high-speed internet connection and strategies to repel them will go a long way toward helping you establish a sound digital defense at home.
Here are a few computer safety tips to help you protect your computer against viruses, malware and spyware while online.
Install and update protection software
There are all sorts of malicious programs lying in wait for unsuspecting users. That’s why the Federal Bureau of Investigation emphasized the importance of installing anti-virus software, spyware protection and a firewall. Antivirus software removes harmful programs that corrupt data and otherwise compromise the performance of your computer.
Spyware enables nefarious programmers to keep track of your activities, even when you are offline. They can use this access to steal personal information, which can be leveraged for blackmail, identity theft and fraud.
Often, viruses and spyware are packaged with legitimate software or masked as another type of program, leading unsuspecting users to download harmful code onto their computers
Antivirus and antispyware software help protect your computer against viruses by scanning your computer for traces of their activity.
Takeaway: Regularly update your antivirus and antispyware applications to make sure your computer is one step ahead of the latest online threats.
Scrutinize email attachments carefully
It’s often in the most familiar places online, such as an email inbox, where you run the greatest risks of being infected by malware or spyware. According to Microsoft, computer viruses are frequently spread by attachments in email messages.
As a result, you must be incredibly cautious when clicking on links or attachments in emails. Selecting the wrong file can lead to a systematic computer failure in just a few minutes. Often, discerning fake links from real ones is extremely difficult.
Also, keep a close eye on attachments sent by friends and family. Even if the source of the email is trustworthy, it’s difficult to know if the sender has an infectious virus on their computer. Opening attachments could expose your computer to a long list of potential threats despite the existence of updated malware and spyware software.
Takeaway: Be wary of email links and attachments, no matter the sender. Be proactive and use some computer safety tips for identifying and avoiding unsafe emails and messages to keep viruses at bay. Additionally, consider using cloud-based file share applications if you need to share files with friends or coworkers.
Use complex and unique passwords
Your network is only as safe as the passwords you use to secure it. Make sure you’re following password best practices on every device. For example, avoid easy-to-access information like birthdays and addresses, patterns in letters or numbers and all lower- or upper-case passwords. Most importantly, don’t reuse passwords across different accounts. If you’re having trouble remembering all of them, a good password manager allows you to only remember one.
Takeaway: Use strong, unique passwords with no public information for every account that accesses your internet connection.
Secure the rest of your network
It’s not enough to focus solely on your computer. Every device connected to your high-speed internet service should be protected by some type of firewall or antivirus software. In addition, encrypt your Wi-Fi signal to prevent intrusions by hackers and freeloading neighbors.
Taking these steps will help ensure that your computer and other connected devices are protected from virus infections or hacks. Similarly, this approach will prevent a single virus from destroying other connected equipment if a piece of nasty code travels from the computer to the rest of the devices on the network.
Takeaway: Protect your devices with antivirus software and encryption.
Communicate these tips to the family
Ultimately, it takes an entire household of tech security-savvy users to keep a family computer safe from destructive intrusions. As a result, you’ll need to share tips to be safe online with each member of the family if you want your computer to remain clear of viruses and be spyware-free.
It only takes one mistake or wrong click to expose the network to a dangerous piece of malware, and infection could put your identity and more at serious risk. The entire family must approach internet safety with a new focus to help maintain a sound, virus-free network.
Following these computer safety tips will help you keep your network clean and avoid the cost of repairing and recovering a corrupted hard drive. Likewise, preventing performance-slowing infections will ensure your family will get the most out of your high-speed internet connection. A few more right clicks than wrong clicks is all it takes to make sure your PC remains protected.
Originally published 08/25/15. Last updated 08/29/19.