Saturday, 14 April 2012

How To Secure Your PC FOR FREE! [Windows]

So I recently got a call of a friend, of a friend, of a friend who told me that they had a virus and asked if I could have a look at it for them. Being the local geek for all of my friends and family a agreed and popped round to see him one evening after work. 'Might have a virus' was possibly the biggest understatement I have ever heard, this thing was riddled with virus's, malware, bots and pretty much anything else you can think off. In the end the machine was so badly infected I decided to back up all the files and completely re-install the Operating System (Windows 7) but before doing so I had to ask him how it got so bad. His reply, "I dunno, it just started happening a few months ago and it keeps getting worse". I noticed that he had no anti-virus on the machine so no wonder the machine was so badly infected!

So anyway, I fixed the machine and I shared some pearls of wisdom with him in order to make sure he doesn't have a repeat performance and I thought I would then share this with you guys. So here are my top 4 tips for helping to reduce infections that come your way.

1. Get Some Anti-Virus Software

This is probably the most important thing you will need. Anti-Virus Software (AV for short) pro-actively scans your computer and checks new files that are being added/downloaded automatically. It will then warn you if it thinks a file is an infection. You can also run scans on demand and scan particular files before opening them. There are many different types of AV out there, some free, some you have to pay for. Personally, I've always used free AV and I have NEVER had a virus.

The best of the free AV in my opinion (and it's the one I use on all my machines running Windows) is Avast! free edition, it can be downloaded from HERE. It will do everything I have said above and more. I would suggest disabling the sound from the settings menu as they can be annoying. Also, make sure that your AV is ALWAYS kept up to date. If you don't then you are more vulnerable to infection.

2. Get Some Anti-Malware Software

Malware is short for Malicious Software. It is like a virus but generally they have different signatures (pieces of code that AV and AM use to find infections) and they tend to be more of an annoyance than something that can do damage to your machine. Generally malware will do things like change your home page and re-direct you to different pages on the internet automatically. Not all Malware is this 'mild' though, some Malware infections can be extremely damaging.

This is where Anti-Malware software (AM for short) comes in. As I said above, Malware infections tend to have different signatures from Viruses so some AV will not pick Malware up. Not to worry, there is a brilliant free tool call MalwareBytes Anti-Malware (MBAM for short) that will hunt down and remove Malware infections. You can download it for free from HERE. As with Avast! you can setup MBAM to run regular scans automatically on your machine. Again, it is VERY IMPORTANT to ALWAYS keep your AM and AV up to date so that they can find the newest infections.

3. Don't Open Emails From People You Don't Know

This is really obvious but most people don't follow it. It's simple, if you receive an email that you aren't expecting and it's from someone you don't know then delete it. The chances are it is at the very least it's spam and worst case a virus/malware. A common email infection that I have seen going around is an email from a 'delivery company' about 'your package' these can be a pretty malicious piece of malware embedded that disassociates all .exe files on your computer. This basically means that you can't run any applications, bad! So please be cautious.

Another little tip on email is to have 2 email addresses. Your main address (john.smith@gmail.com for example) and a secondary anonymous address (mymail3445@gmail.com for example). Then, if you ever find yourself having to fill out forms online that require an email address (which is extremely common) then you can use your generic address. This enables you to vet the company, so, once you know that they aren't going to spam you or that they are legitimate then you can log on to your account and simply change your email address with them. This is what I do and I get very little (around 2-3 mails) spam in my main mailbox. Whereas my secondary address get a tonne of spam daily. There are also free anti-spam tools that you can download and install into outlook to help it find and remove spam more efficiently. The best one I have use is SpamBayes, you can fine out more about SpamBayes HERE.

4. Keep Windows Up To Date

Windows updates are extremely important but a lot of people just see them as an annoyance that delays their computer from shutting down. When a vulnerability is found in the code for Windows either through an infection or by users reporting via crash reports, Microsoft gets to work on 'patching' the hole. These 'patches' are then released as Windows Updates. So you see, if you don't keep Windows up to date you are leaving your machine much more vulnerable than a fully 'patched' computer.

Once turned on, Windows updates will run on your computer automatically on a regular basis. You can turn them on by going to Start > Control Panel > Windows Updates > Check Settings.

As I said earlier on in this post, I have never had a virus in all the years I have been computing and all I do is follow these very simple guidelines. I hope this information is useful and if it helps just one person save some time and some money by not getting infected then it's all worth it. :)

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