Do you often use online banking? Do you run your own blog? Do you store your data in the cloud? Do you use an email system accessible through a web-browser? Does your business rely on the data held within your computer? What would you do if your accounts became compromised? Your data could be copied, deleted, or even worse, used for criminal purposes? Have you ever thought about this?
The simplest anti-virus precautions are also the most effective.
- Switch off the image preview function in your email program. This removes what is called in security circles an “attack vector”, a method where unauthorised programs or people can access your computer and files.
- Never open email attachments if you don’t know who sent them. Files and pictures may not be what they seem.
- Don’t use pirated software. Apart from the legal and ethical implications, it is a very common attack vector.
- Make sure your data is has a recent backup. Storage space is cheap. Very cheap. There is no excuse (especially if your business depends upon its computers) not to have at least two copies of all your data—and make sure at least one copy is kept off-site.
Although the use of anti-virus software should be (and indeed is) widespread, a large number of computers running anti-virus software are effectively unprotected. For many years, computers have frequently been bought with anti-virus software installed. This is seen as a “good thing” at the point of sale. Unfortunately the software is usually of the type where at some point a subscription must be paid to keep the virus definitions up to date. This leads to a large proportion of anti-virus users with terribly out of date definitions, as most fail to see why they should pay to update their software when they have anti-virus software that “still works”.
Anti-virus software is only as good as the definition updates that it uses to detect the viruses and malware. A quick look at my anti-virus install logs tells me that updates occur roughly twice a week, so over a year that’s about 100 updates. If you’re using software that was included on a computer purchased two or more years ago, chances are you’ve missed hundreds of updates. Not only is your computer (and your data privacy) seriously at risk, but so are the computers of people you interact with online. Viruses and malware can spread through emails and over wifi, and over the internet with shared files. If you’ve not updated your anti-virus software recently the probability is high that you have some form of virus or malware.
There is no excuse for running old anti-virus software. There are many free anti-virus programs out there. In no particular order, and remembering there’ll be many more, I can think of AVG, Microstoft Security Essentials, Avast!, Panda Cloud AV and Avira Antivir. Most of these have a better specified commercial version, but for basic AV protection they all do an excellent job. My own favourite is Microsoft Security Essentials. It protects all of my machines, and seems to do a very good job. Alongside MSE I run Malwarebytes Anti-Malware in it’s full, always-on commercial version. Between them and the simple precautions outlined above my machines enjoy a level of security that keeps me comfortable and protected; it’s like having my own bio-hazard suit!
Ditch your old software, and get protected today.