What is Malware and Spyware?
The first step in knowing how to protect your computer from unwanted visitors such as malware and spyware is knowing what these harmful programs are. Malware is a software that works to damage computers, often targeting the hard drive and preventing the computer from functioning properly. Spyware is similar in its destructive nature, it allows another user to hack into your computer from their own computer, and obtain personal information that you have stored within your hard drive. The information they have access to could range from search history to important identification details (social security number, address, legal files, and photos).
How do I know if my computer is infected?
- Unwanted or unexpected pop-ups – if opening a browser unleashes a fury of new windows opening rapidly then you have a security issue.
- If there are new toolbars or bookmarks that you did not download/create, then it is possible a program has done that for you.
- Slow or noticeable decreases in internet connectivity – if your ability to search and use the internet is reduced to a crawl because pages are not loading as quickly as they used to, then there could be a bigger problem at work.
- If programs start running automatically or unprompted this could mean your hard drive has been infiltrated.
- If your computer starts to crash frequently, then there could be destructive software that has corrupted your operating system.
How do I protect my computer?
Your computer is equipped with internal software that is essential to the prevention of both malware and spyware.
- The first line of defense are pop-up blockers. It is essential to your computer’s safety that you ensure your pop-up blockers are enabled. These will prevent additional windows that could potentially contain harmful information from being opened when you are browsing the Internet.
- The next line of defense is your computer’s firewalls. It is important to make sure that within your settings, your firewalls are enabled. This program acts as a barrier between the harmful software and your hard drive. While you are browsing the Internet, it prevents outside sources from downloading packets of information to your computer.
- In addition to this, it is important to keep your system up to date. This means downloading and installing your system’s updates as they become available. The companies behind your computer’s software (Windows, Apple, etc…) provide these new security components periodically for a reason. As time goes on, the programs initially installed within your computer go out of date, which means they will fail to thoroughly protect your hard drive against both malware and spyware. By downloading the newest update, you are making sure that your computer continues to be equipped with the proper tools to prevent attacks from these outside threats.
After you ensure that all of the programs that your computer is equipped with are up and running effectively, you can further help improve your computer’s defenses by looking out for suspicious activity.
- Do not open emails or messages from sources that you do not know.
- Do not visit any odd or unidentifiable websites.
- Do not allow websites to download any data directly to your computer unless you know it is 100% safe.
- Always make sure to keep important information password protected.
In order to prevent malware and spyware attacks, it is important to follow all of the tips and steps listed above. The health of your computer is a direct result of how well you take care of it, and how well you take advantage of the programs that are provided to you. Be a responsible computer owner, use your pop-up blockers, firewalls and keep your systems up to date.