If you are reading this, you are almost certainly online. If you are online, you are almost certainly at risk for unwanted computer problems. The least of these problems set you up for annoying and unsolicited advertising. The worst of these problems jeopardize your computer and your personal identity. Malware is any “bad” software that gets on your computer. Spyware is software that reports your user history and the things that you type into online forms to some third party. Adware is the annoying pop-ups and banners that show up when you are online. Although these computer problems are different from one another, their preventions are the same.
The most important thing you can do to protect your computer is to put anti-viral software on it. Anti-viral software is a blanket term; it protects your computer from all the nasty things. You can either purchase the software from a store, and install it on your computer, or you can purchase it online and download it. Either method is just as effective. There are also a good number of free programs available, but the free programs are probably not as comprehensive as the commercial programs.
After you install or download your anti-viral software, you need to update it often. The malware is constantly changing. To stay ahead of the bad guys, the anti-viral software must constantly change as well. You will see a popup window that asks you if the updates can be installed. When you receive one of these pop-ups you should first make sure it is from the software company. Become familiar with the logo of your company so that a counterfeit pop-up doesn’t trick you into downloading unwanted software. Once you are sure that the pop-up is from a trusted source, go ahead and allow the update. Allowing updates is the only way to stay current.
Besides using anti-viral software, there are other things that you can do to keep your computer and your identity safe. One thing is to be careful with email. The number one way that viruses get onto computers is through email attachments. Never open an attachment from an unknown source. Even if you do know the source, never open an attachment that doesn’t contain a personal message. A virus replicates itself and sends itself out to all the contacts in the host’s address book. However, the virus will not include a personal message. If you receive an email with an attachment and without a personal message, email the sender and ask about it.
Another way to avoid Internet problems is to be careful about where you type in your personal information. Find the icon that is associated with secure Internet sites. On most browsers, it is a little yellow lock down on the address bar. Never type in any information if the site is not secure. This goes for credit card information as well as for personal information like a home address or a telephone number. You don’t want the bad guys to know anything about you.
A final way to avoid getting malware on your computer is to be careful with downloads. Most spyware programs are unintentionally downloaded. If you need to download something, read the agreement contract very carefully. If there is anything that suggests spyware, do not download the program. Also, never download any file sharing programs. Fileshareing, or shareware, is spyware. People download it all the time thinking about all of the cool files, mainly music, that they will be able to share. What they don’t think about is the fact that once they enable their computer to share, they cannot control who they are sharing with or even what they are sharing.