How to Guides

Protecting Your Computer: How to protect your Computer from Malicious Software

How to protect your Computer
Written by Lisa Patrick

The computer world is a jungle. Danger lurks in every corner. Hackers in today’s computer world use many methods to gain access to your system to control it. Merely keeping Anti-virus software up to date on your computer won’t keep you completely safe for malicious software. What is a computer malware and how to protect your computer from it is the focus in this how-to guide. Here we will show you what a computer worm is, what computer hacking is and a few ways to help you protect your computer from malicious software and stay totally protected.

What is malicious software?

Malicious software, also known as malware, is a program embedded in emails, websites, and links to sites that infect your computer. Most malware must be initiated by you the user in order for them to work. When you open an email,  click on a link to a website or open a particular site, you initiate the malware to change your operating systems programming and allow the malware program to take over your computer. Some malware programs make minor modifications to your computer; some completely shut it down leaving it inoperable.

There are many forms of malware:

  • Viruses
  • Worms
  • Trojans
  • Adware
  • Spyware
  • Rootkits
  • Phishing

Viruses, worms, trojans, and rootkits do the most damage to a computer system. Adware, spyware, and Phishing track your internet usage, where you go and what you look at, without your knowledge and report this traffic to other entities for the purpose of advertising, collecting your personal information and changing your computers’ configurations.

All of these methods are used to hack into your computer and take it over, causing sometimes irreparable damage to your system. But there are many ways to protect against these computer worms and computer hackers.

How to protect your computer

The methods used by hackers to gain access to your computer and numerous as are the methods to keep it safe as well. From Anti-virus software to User account controls, your computer has various means of being protected.

  • Antivirus software – These software programs are downloaded onto your computer from a website. They seek out, quarantine and delete all forms of computer viruses, much like an antibiotic does in your body. Many of these software programs also deal effectively with spyware, adware, and phishing.
  • Double check emails – One of the most covert ways which malware can enter into your system is in the form of emails. Many email providers have what is known as “spam” filter. If you receive an email that is not on your safe sender list or in your contacts, the spam filter will automatically deliver the email to a folder that you can delete without ever having to open the email. But there are instances when an email looks like it comes from an accepted site or even someone in your contacts list. Check the spelling of the URL the email origin. Most spam emails are misspelled. Also check the URL itself. If the address doesn’t start with HTTPS or have a padlock symbol next to it, chances are it is spam. Do not click on any links that look suspicious. If you suspect that an email is malware, mark it as spam. Doing this will not only protect your computer but also alert the email provider of the domain the email came from, making it go into the spam folder the next time it shows up.
  • Update Antivirus software – Just purchasing and downloading the latest antivirus software won’t protect your system all the time. From time to time, you need to update the software. Antivirus software contains a library of viruses known to cause damage. These libraries need to be updated in order for the program to stay current.
  • Using an outdated operating system – Using older versions of Windows like Windows 95, 98, Windows ME, Windows XP, etc., cannot protect your data. Aside from contracting a virus on these older versions, they simply are not compatible with today’s internet. Many websites and applications cannot be viewed with these older versions. So stay current with your operating system.
  • Firewalls – Firewalls are built into the operating system of many PC’s and MACs. Many times the firewalls are configured with default settings that have basic coverage. You can customize your firewall settings for more secure web browsing. Parental Controls are one way to do this. Enabling the Pop-Up Blocker on your browser is another way.
  • User Account Controls (UAC) – UAC is your computers way of recognizing who has control of it. By turning on the UAC, you are essentially telling your computer to notify you of any changes to your computer that are initiated by an outside program. When you click on a malware link that is programmed to change your registry or any other part of your OS, a box will pop-up asking if you want to allow the program to make changes to your computer. If you did not initiate the program, then click “no” and it stops it program from doing its job.

There are several more ways to protect your computer from viruses; these are but a few of the more useful ways. Keeping your computer safe is a primary concern among many computer owners and administrators. As more advanced malware come into the computer world, so too, the methods of thwarting them be invented and improved.

Featured Image By Bruno Pedrozo (Feito por mim) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Lisa Patrick

Lisa Patrick is a freelance writer in the United States with a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Phoenix. Since 1984 she studied computers and computer technology. She has written for various companies for the better part of 20 years and enjoyed every word of it. She also enjoys reading and writing fiction and non-fiction, riding motorcycles, watching horror movies, making gemstone jewelry, singing, and dancing.

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