Viruses and malware can wreak havoc on your devices and allow criminals to steal your personal information, lock you out of your data, and more. Cybercrime is becoming extremely lucrative for a certain type of person, and malware is the number-one way criminals will try to turn your data into some illicit cash.
Viruses, ransomware, and spyware are just some of the most common and irksome forms of malware. You can contract these malicious bits of code from visiting an infected website or downloading a malicious app by accident. Data breaches are also a real threat — they’re the reason hackers can purchase lists of usernames and passwords or credit card numbers, or other sensitive information on the dark web. Protect yourself with these five tips.
1] Keep Operating Systems and Firmware Up to Date
Manufacturers release software and firmware updates for a reason — and it’s not to slow down your device, so you buy a new one. It’s to patch security flaws that have been found in the operating system or firmware, closing off some of the avenues hackers can use to access your data.
Install the operating system and firmware updates right away to keep your devices safer. Software updates won’t stop every hacking attempt — there might still be zero-day flaws that the manufacturer doesn’t know about and that hackers haven’t even learned to exploit yet. But keeping your devices’ software and firmware updated will at least protect you from most, if not all, known threats.
2] Use a Comprehensive Antivirus Program
You need a max security antivirus suite that will protect every device in your home — at least, everyone that’s robust enough to run an antivirus program. It would be best if you had something that can protect tablets and mobile devices as well as desktop computers. Look for antivirus software that protects enough devices at once to suit your family’s needs. Features like parental controls, transaction security, spam filters, and password management can keep you safe and help you keep your family safe.
3] Be Cautious about Emails
You can get a virus from visiting an infected website, and there are plenty of common user behaviors that increase your risk of identity theft and other cyber crimes — like not password-protecting your smartphone. But emails are perhaps the biggest culprit of malware propagation and data theft.
You probably get several spam emails a day. Many of these are filtered directly into your spam folder to die an ignoble death. But some are sophisticated enough to get through spam filters, and they can even fool a savvy web user. Be wary of emails that direct you to another page, want you to download an attachment, offer something that’s too good to be true, or claim that you’ve been charged for a large purchase that you didn’t make or that there’s a problem with your account. Organizations like your bank or the IRS will never ask you to resolve account issues via email — you’ll get a letter in the mail instead.
4] Don’t Just Download Anything
You have to be careful about downloading apps, even from supposedly reputable sources — many apps in the Apple App Store are actually scam apps, for example. You should obviously still only download apps from trusted sources, but don’t assume that a source is as trustworthy as it’s making itself out to be. An App Store app is probably safe, but before you install it, check the reviews and see whether other users are warning against it. You can also search the name of the app on the web, and if it’s a malicious app, you’ll probably find several warnings against it. And you should avoid apps or files from torrent sites altogether.
5] Use a Password Manager
Hackers usually aren’t smarter or more capable than the average person — they’re just betting on the average person to not really be that concerned about cybersecurity, either. And in many cases, they’d win that bet. How many people do you know who use the same password for every account? Are you one of them? Well, if a hacker gets ahold of one of your account passwords, all your accounts are now compromised.
You don’t have to carry around a written list of your passwords, either. Use a password manager to generate strong passwords, store them, and access them as needed. You’ll need to remember a single password to access the database, and then you can use keyboard shortcuts to cut and paste your login credentials into your web portal or app.
A malware infection or ransomware attack can really derail your life if you’re not careful. Take the right steps to keep your devices secure and avoid dealing with identity theft, ransomware, or attempts to scam you out of your money.