It’s that time here in Australia, the middle of Autumn (some call it Fall) and in particular the southern part of Australia, it’s getting darn cold. Like, tops of 12 to 15 c (53 to 59 f) during the day kind of cold. With that comes the dreaded flu season, several people here in Australia have already become very sick and some have even died from it. My family and I have all had our flu shots, but even before that I’ve been a little under the weather. This is a very sombre way to start a blog, I know, but it also opens up to a good way to talk about today’s topic; protecting your computer from viruses and other malicious software (referred to as Malware). Now, as you might have started to guess, I like to see what I can do on the cheap, or even better, for free.
So let’s get started, what do you need to know about the kind of viruses that computers need to be worried about vs. the kind of viruses we deal with, and, what can some of these nasties actually do to your computer? Well, firstly a computer virus and a virus that we could catch are very similar, for example, both types of viruses ‘infect’ your system and then multiply, both will make you feel unwell and potentially cause you harm if not treated. Also, both could potentially cause issues performing normal work activities or daily duties (if you need your computer to do your job, and it’s not working…). The final two comparisons that I’ll draw are that a virus enters your system via either a vulnerability or by a mistake and that both are somewhat preventable (easier to prevent on a computer actually)
Those last two points may be a bit confusing, so let’s look at them just briefly in a bit more detail. The way that a human virus enters your system is usually by some sort of contact contamination, whether you touched a door handle that was contaminated and then scratched your nose, or you have a cut on your skin and something got in that way, a virus is something that gets in that you did not want in. Computer viruses usually get into your computer by a vulnerability or flaw in an existing program or by the user clicking on something they were unaware was infected. Human viruses can be prevented (to some degree) by having good hygiene, wearing protective gear and having a strong immunity. Computer viruses can be prevented by having good digital hygiene, for example, having software to detect threats and browser plugins to warn you about bad sites, and finally, having good situational awareness when surfing the web.
OK, enough of the gross talk about human viruses, you may be feeling a bit icky by now, but just imagine how your computer will feel if you let it get sick. The good news is that you can protect yourself from the majority of threats with a few easy to use, and free programs. These are programs that I have thoroughly vetted and used myself on a daily basis for extended periods. They are the programs I recommend to my clients, students and family members alike. I name dropped the two main programs that I use in the previous Digital Hygiene post, they are ‘Avast Antivirus’ and ‘Malwarebytes’ and when used together, you’ll have broad-spectrum protection against nasties from getting into your PC. Let’s take a look at each of these, cover what they can do and then I’m going to provide some form of a downloadable guide to installing software, I’ll also publish my complete list of recommended software.
One final reminder before we proceed; it’s important to remember how these companies are able to provide free software to us. In the case of the two following programs (and all of the ones I recommend) they both have a ‘Premium’ tier which you can pay in either a monthly/yearly subscription or once off fee, which unlocks more features. This premium tier of uses pays for the free users, with the tradeoff being that us free users will get occasional offers and ads for their paid versions. It’s a lot like watching YouTube or free-to-air TV where you sit through ads which pay for the programming. I don’t begrudge this method as everyone needs to make a living somehow and I’d rather they be up front doing it. This method, in my opinion provides a better alternative rather than selling off your details and data to third parties to make their living (*cough* Google *cough*)
In their own words,Avast describes themselves as;
“… one of the largest security companies in the world using next-gen technologies to fight cyber attacks in real time. We differ from other next-gen companies in that we have an immense cloud-based machine learning engine that receives a constant stream of data from our hundreds of millions of users, which facilitates learning at unprecedented speeds and makes our artificial intelligence engine smarter and faster than anyone else’s”. – Source Avast website
Sounds good to me. What they’re saying is that their products are very smart and really fast at protecting against new threats as they come out. And believe me, new threats are coming out at an hourly rate sometimes. I run Avast every 3-5 days just as a precaution, they also recently added a feature that will, when activated, check your system for software that is out of date and then offer to update it for you. Great stuff, gold star for that one Avast. This is important because, as mentioned before, malicious software can sometimes get into your computer via a vulnerability in an outdated piece of software. I’ll also run Avast on client and family owned USB and HDD (Hard Disk Drives) before accessing the contents. This is as simple as right clicking on the attached drive and selecting ‘Scan selected item for viruses’.
In their own words, Malwarebytes talks about its two main streams (being Home and Business) on their website:
”Home – Malwarebytes For Windows;
Comprehensive security that blocks malware and hackers. It protects you from threats that a traditional antivirus isn’t smart enough to stop. Check out our Mac, Mobile, and Chromebook cybersecurity.
Business – Malwarebytes For Business
Trusted by more than 60,000 businesses as the go-to cybersecurity solution that provides comprehensive endpoint protection, detection, and remediation”.
Also very cool. I like how they mention that they protect against things that a conventional antivirus software might miss. This is the ‘broad spectrum’ coverage I mentioned earlier in this post. Both programs serve a similar purpose and having both means that it’s less likely something will be missed.
Now the last thing we need to talk about is also one of the most important things. Situational awareness! This means being aware of threats and knowing what to do about them. Some suggestions include;
– NOT clicking on links in an email unless you’re certain they come from a reputable source
– In fact, DON’T even open emails from people that you don’t know or an email that you weren’t expecting
– Check that the email address looks valid as well; firstname.lastname@example.org is not going to be legitimate
– DON’T download random software from an unverified or untrusted sources (see link below for my ‘Downloading Software Guide’)
– Even .PDF’s and .DOCX files can contain code that can be harmful (the ones I provide are safe, I’ve made them myself and stand behind them all), so don’t download and open files from random people
– You’ve (not) won! Sorry, but you haven’t won an amazing prize, a new iPad or wad of cash. Scammers are out every day finding new ways to separate people from their hard earned cash, don’t be one of them. See also, the file below on ‘Preventing Phone Fraud’ which I have created from the source material <<here>> Although it specifically talks about phone fraud, the delivery method can change but the scams follow familiar beats.
I think that’s more than enough for today, you’re probably ready to throw your computer out the window and cover yourselves in hand sanitizer after this fun look at viruses. But don’t fret, put in place these three things; Antivirus, Anti-malware and some good sense, and everything will be OK. I have a lot more about Digital Hygiene to come in future posts, next time we’ll cover the next most important thing to keep yourself safe online; Password Managers.
Comment down below with your experiences of viruses AND if you like my attached documents, please do let me know. I’m very proud of every document and blog post I write and I hope to continue to make them better and better.
Thanks for stopping by to have a read. See you all next time.
P.S Below you will see download links to two PDF files. These have been created by me for your viewing pleasure. Simply click the [Download] button to grab yourself a copy.