Protect your PC

Protect your PC

Protecting your PC and keeping it free from badware is important for your website, your online security, and your sensitive information. Badware on your personal computer may steal important data, like your banking credentials or your passwords; often, it also tries to spread itself to more computers and websites. That means having badware on your computer puts your contacts and visitors at risk.

A few simple steps can reduce your computer’s exposure to badware.

1. Secure your operating system. Your computer’s operating system (e.g., Windows, OS X for Mac, Linux) plays a central role in managing the security of your machine. Keep your computer safe by:

  • Installing security updates as soon as they become available
  • Using a built-in or third-party firewall
  • Enabling file sharing only if needed, and then with security features (e.g., passwords) turned on

2. Keep updated. Your operating system, your web browser, toolbars, plug-ins, security software, and other applications all need to be kept up to date to patch holes that can let badware into your computer.

  • Most software has an automatic update feature—use it! If it isn’t enabled by default, check the settings for each piece of software you install to turn on automatic updates.
  • For software that doesn’t support automatic updates, look in the menus (especially the settings or preferences menu) for a manual “check for updates” option.
  • If there is no update option in the software, check the vendor’s website to see if they have patches, updates, or other downloads intended to fix security vulnerabilities. Be sure to download updates directly from the software vendor’s website.

3. Install security software. Anti-virus, anti-spyware, and other similar products can be useful to detect, stop, and remove badware that has found a way onto your computer despite following the previous steps. Look for a product that:

  • can detect both known and unknown viruses, spyware, and other badware in real time.
  • has a low false positive rate.
  • has been reviewed in established publications and/or tested by independent labs. Do not take the word of the product’s website or ads; instead, check the publications’ and labs’ websites for verification. User reviews can also be helpful.

It is sometimes useful to have a second product (from a different vendor) that you can run manually or on a schedule to check for anything that the real-time scanner may have missed.

4. Remove or disable unnecessary applications. If you find a piece of software on your computer useful, great! If not, why leave another avenue for an attacker to get in?

  • Uninstall toolbars, plug-ins, and other software that you don’t use.
  • Disable automatic startup for applications that you only use occasionally. This may also improve your PC’s performance.

5. Think before you click! Badware distributors love to find ways to trick people into installing their software. Here are a few tips to avoid being deceived:

  • Avoid opening email attachments or downloaded files unless you can verify that they came from a reputable source. Even if the source is reputable, consider whether the attachment looks suspicious or whether the source’s email account could have been compromised.
  • Be wary of clicking links in email messages. It may be safer to visit the site by typing its URL into your browser’s navigation bar, or by using an existing shortcut that you have to the site, such as a bookmark. Mousing over (but not clicking!) a link in an email will often tell you where that link goes.
  • Be alert to fake virus warnings, often within web browser windows, that encourage you to download, install, or purchase unfamiliar software. You know what we mean if you have seen a pop-up or a page in your browser that says a “security scan” is taking place and you have to download “security software” to fix all the problems that were detected. Stay clear!
  • Heed warnings from web browsers, search engines, and security products that try to protect you from known or suspected threats. These include browser warnings like “Reported attack site” and “Something’s not right here,” and search warnings like “This site may harm your computer.”