Seven Tips to protect computers from hackers, malware

In the news recently, there have been some high-profile security scares
for computer users. Adobe released an emergency update for Flash after
hackers exploited a vulnerability, while Samsung was heavily criticised
for disabling Windows Update and leaving laptop users exposed to
security risks.

According to BT, ommon sense alone isn’t enough to protect your Windows
personal computer from malware – malicious software that disrupts your
computer’s operations or gathers sensitive information about your online

Hackers can attack your PC in so many
different ways that employing several layers of anti-malware protection
is the only way to keep your PC malware-free when it’s online.
Here are seven steps to protect your computer from Malware.
Tip 1: Install, update and use anti-virus software
Installing antivirus software may sound
like an obvious first step to protect against malware, but not everyone
bothers to do it. With so many options now available, though, there is
really no excuse. Microsoft offers its own free download in the form of
Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows Vista and 7, while Windows
8/8.1 has Microsoft Defender built in.
Alternatively, BT Virus Protect is available free to BT broadband customers.
Once installed, it’s vital to regularly update your anti-malware software’s database and run system scans at least once a month.
Tip 2: Keep Windows up to date
Hackers often discover new ways to
bypass Windows’ built-in security features, which is why Microsoft
issues small operating system updates every Tuesday and larger ‘service
pack’ updates once or twice a year. These will be downloaded and
installed automatically by Windows update, but only if this feature is
properly configured.
To check that it’s working normally,
type Windows Update in the Start menu search box in Windows Vista/7, or
at the start screen in Windows 8/8.1. Look on the left of the Windows
Update window and click ‘change settings’ and use the drop-down list to
check that ‘install updates automatically’ is selected – anything other
than this risks a crucial update being missed.
Tip 3: Turn on the Windows firewall
Windows has a built-in ‘firewall’ that
protects your PC from unwanted attention via the Internet. This software
firewall is enabled by default and works alongside any hardware
firewall that’s built into your home broadband router. Check its
settings by typing ‘check firewall’ in the start menu search box or on
the Windows 8 start screen and choosing ‘check firewall status’ from the
Two green tick marks mean the firewall
is working normally, else you’ll need to select ‘Turn Windows Firewall’
on or off on the left of the window and enable one or both options that
Tip 4: Use the latest version of your web browser
Web browsers are vital applications, but
just like other software, they can contain bugs. Hackers are quick to
capitalise on these and create bogus (or infect genuine) websites with
data designed to exploit them. Once a web browser has been compromised
in this way, a hacker can monitor everything you type, including
passwords to credit card numbers. That’s why it’s vital to use the
latest version of your web browser – anything other than this may be a
security risk.
Microsoft includes updates for Internet
Explorer. Search for Windows Update and check its optional updates
section to ensure you’re also using the latest version of the
application – which is Internet Explorer 11, if you’re using Windows
Vista, 7 or 8/8.1.
Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox will
also update themselves automatically, but don’t ignore their requests to
restart the browser when such an update has been downloaded and is
ready to be installed.
Tip 5: Don’t fall for phishing emails
Emails that appear to be from a
recognisable online service asking you to log into a site to confirm
some personal details are always fake.
These emails are usually caught by your
email application’s spam filter, but if one does slip through and you
click its link, your web browser should detect and block the site it
takes you to.
This does depend on your web browser
being aware of the fraudulent site, though, which is another good reason
to always use the most recent version.
Tip 6: Use the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool
If you suspect your PC has succumbed to malware and your anti-malware software doesn’t detect it, there are two steps to take.
The first is to download and run the
Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool from the Windows Download
Centre. This will detect and remove specific types of malware and is
very simple to use, although it isn’t a replacement for a full
anti-malware application.
Tip 7: Still infected? Use a boot CD.
Some malware can hide within Windows and
make itself difficult to detect and remove. If your own anti-malware
software and the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool fail to shift
it, you’ll need to download and burn a free anti-malware boot CD – refer
to your computer’s manuals for instructions on how to boot from a CD as
the process varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 is a good one,
but never download it on an infected PC -ask a friend to do it, if
necessary. This will then scan your PC for malware without the need for
Windows, which makes removal that much easier.
In computing, a hacker is any skilled computer expert that uses their technical knowledge to overcome a problem.
While “hacker” can refer to any computer
programmer, the term has become associated in popular culture with a
“security hacker”, someone who, with their technical knowledge, uses
bugs or exploits to break into computer systems.
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