I would be remiss if I didn’t at least spell out the basic virus and spyware prevention advice that provides the foundation for the more advanced techniques you will learn by subscribing to our Newsletter. We couldn’t list them all here because of the ever changing spyware “cat and mouse” games. The steps below are not presented in any particular order.
Use a Firewall
Most malware and other potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) come deceptively bundled with other programs that you may have downloaded and installed on your PC. But some spyware can actually be placed on your computer remotely by hackers. Installing a 3rd party firewall or at least using the basic firewall that’s built into Windows can provide some measure of defense against these hackers.
Keep Your Software Updated
I know that Microsoft recommends that you keep Automatic Updates turned on, but I say NO! But I would at least choose an option that automatically notifies you when an update is available and whether you want to install them or not. Some updates, particularly Service Packs may not install properly if you already have malware or virus infections. Also, Window Updates may also not install properly if your AntiVirus and/or 3rd Party Firewall is enabled. Updating Windows with malware infections or enabled security software may even cause your computer to crash…imagine that! So my advice is to do your homework first about what updates are pending to be installed, and prepare your computer for the update so you don’t break it when you are trying to make it run better. I set Windows Update to notify me when updates are available but not to automatically download and install them. I set aside time every few days to manually install Windows Updates.
Adjust Security Settings for Internet Explorer
You can adjust your Internet Explorer Web browser’s security settings to determine how much-or how little-information you want to accept from a Web site.
Microsoft recommends that you set the security settings for the Internet zone to Medium or higher. (If you use Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) and you use Internet Explorer to browse the Web, your browser security settings for the Internet zone are set to Medium by default.)
To view your current Internet Explorer security settings:
1. In Internet Explorer, click Tools and then click Internet Options.
2. Select the Security tab.
Install top-tier AntiVirus and AntiSpyware Programs
If money is an issue, you could install Microsoft Security Essentials to help protect your computer from spyware and other unwanted software. It’s available as a no-cost download for Windows XP SP2 and higher. Otherwise we recommend you download and install SUPERAntiSpyware or MalwareBytes-AntiMalware. They are both actually pretty inexpensive. For AntiVirus, we strongly recommend ESET Nod32.
Be Street Smart when Surfing the Internet and Downloading
The best defense against spyware and other unwanted software is not to download it in the first place….Prevention! Here is a partial list of some more tips:
- Use multiple layers of top-tier security products (antivirus, antispyware, firewall) and only one of each type
- Ensure your security products are updated with the latest definitions and don’t let them expire
- Use links scanners such as McAfee’s Free SiteAdvisor to get a clue if the site you are about to click on is known to be malicious or not. Don’t click with impunity!
- Use a Standard User Account (Vista, Windows 7) or a Limited Account (XP) instead of an Administrator account when surfing the internet.
- Use complicated passwords for your online accounts with combinations of both letters and numbers (maybe even symbols if allowed)
- Use an internet browser other than Internet Explorer for most of your surfing such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.
- Only download programs from Web sites you trust. If you’re not sure whether to trust a program you are considering downloading, Do some homework and Google the name of the program, title or file name to see if anyone else has reported if it contains malware or not.
- Read all security warnings, EULA license agreements, and privacy statements provided with any software you download.
- Scan every file you download for viruses and spyware before opening it.
- Beware of automatic downloads such as active-x controls and plug-ins, do your homework!
- Beware of opening email attachments, even if they are from someone you know, scan them first for viruses and spyware.
- Use 2 email addresses, keep one very private, and the other for junk mail.
- Be sure you are on a secure site (https) when providing financial information. For sites you know the url to, type in the url manually, rather than clicking on links someone you don’t know provides via email or a website. Always assume that whenever you click on someone else’s link that takes you to a website that asks for a password, that they are either an idiot or a thief. And even if they are an idiot, they will probably give your password to a thief.
- Periodically keep up with the security news provided by your Bank’s website, Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media sites you may use.
- Beware of Gambling, Adult, Freeware, Pirated Software, Free Music Downloading, Video and mp3 Converters, Codecs, Driver Programs, Registry Cleaners, or anything that is promoted through Pop-Ups. If you do download anything, be sure you understand all of the piggy-backed software that may be packaged with the primary program you are downloading.
- Beware of anything currently popular in the news, or about celebrities, music bands, etc. Anything popular is a very juicy medium to promote viruses.
- In my opinion, I would not believe about 99% of the Radio and TV Ads promoting the free online diagnostic scans that also promise to speed-up your computer. Do your homework first. They are almost all borderline scams. And of the few reputable one I see, they are not my top recommendations either because they are not user friendly and tend to slow your computer down. The same goes for most mainstream antivirus programs that may have come pre-installed on your computer as a trial as well as being sold in all the computer stores.
- Never click “Agree”, “OK” or “Cancel” to close a Window you suspect is part of a malicious program. Instead, click the red “x” in the corner of the Window (make sure the cursor is an “arrow” and not the “hand”) or press (Alt + F4) on your keyboard to close a Window.
- If a drive-by download starts, use Task Manager (Ctrl + Alt + Del) to end Internet Explorer or whichever browser you are using.
- Don’t stop learning, and share what you know with all computer users in your household