Over the years, malicious software – or malware – has developed into an extremely serious threat that can place your computer – your valuable files, photos, music and financial information; your money; and your children – at risk.

However, there are steps you can take to ensure you don’t become a victim of today’s increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks and Internet security threats:

1. Install an Antivirus Program

Installing an antivirus program and keeping it up to date can help defend your computer against viruses. Antivirus programs scan for viruses trying to get into your email, operating system, or files. New viruses appear daily, so set your antivirus software to install updates automatically.

2. Don’t Open Unknown E-mail Attachments

Don’t open unknown e-mail attachments or emails from unknown sources. One of the most common ways people wind up with a computer virus is by downloading an infected attachment from an email. Make sure you recognize the email sender and don’t open any suspicious attachments or hyperlinks, regardless of who sent you the message. It’s best not to open any attachment unless it’s something you’re expecting.

3. Keep Your Computer Updated

Microsoft releases security updates that can help protect your computer. Make sure that Windows receives these updates by turning on Windows automatic updating.

4. Use a Firewall

Windows Firewall (or any other firewall) can help alert you to suspicious activity if a virus or worm attempts to connect to your computer. It can also block viruses, worms, and hackers from attempting to download potentially harmful programs to your computer.

5. Use Your Browser’s Privacy Settings

Being aware of how websites might use your private information is important to help prevent fraud and identity theft. Failing to correctly set up your browser’s security features can put you at a higher risk for malware infections and malicious attacks.

6. Avoid Clicking on Pop-Up Ads

Pop-up windows are small browser windows that appear on top of the website you’re viewing. Pop-up ads can install a spyware download or adware on your computer, putting your personal information at risk. Use a pop-up blocker with your browser. Although most are created by advertisers, they can also contain malicious or unsafe code. A pop-up blocker can prevent some or all of these windows from appearing.

7. Avoid P2P File Sharing

Avoid peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing websites to ensure the best antivirus protection. In addition to the possible legal ramifications of sharing copyrighted materials, many of these downloadable files – and sometimes the P2P programs themselves – are infected with viruses, spyware, worms and Trojans.

8. Use Caution on Public WiFi

Don’t conduct online financial transactions from a public computer or wireless network. Doing your online banking, paying your bills, or shopping online on a publicly used computer or wireless network puts the privacy of your personal information at risk. So, save online financial transactions for your personal computer while using a trusted, secure wireless network; or, use a VPN (virtual private network). By using a VPN when you connect to a public Wi-Fi network, you’ll effectively be using a ‘private tunnel’ that encrypts all of your data that passes through the network.

9. Create Strong Passwords

To ensure the highest level of computer security, create a password that contains at least 10 characters with upper and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. The more random the password, the better. Be sure to avoid passwords based on personal information or common patterns or sequences.

10. Contact ECC IT Solutions

If you need assistance in preventing or recovering from a computer malware infection, Call: 301-337-3100 or Email: info@eccitsolutions.com.

ECC IT Solutions is built around helping solve our users’ problems and being a balanced and unbiased resource for business technology news and information in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. metro area. Bookmark our IT Blog and IT Newsletter, and call on us, your trusted technology professionals, for all of your technology needs, including our Complimentary Business IT Needs Assessment.