Malware, or malicious software in the form of viruses, Trojans, ransomware and the like, are ever on the rise with our connected world. Infections can destroy files, slow or stop productivity, cost a company money in reparations, and potentially cause a data breach due to compromise of systems holding private information.
In order to avoid possible infections and certainly a bad day, users should be aware of their tasks and surroundings much like a driver of a car needs to pay attention on the roads. Users should know when something is not right with their computer, as they would the knocking sound of a car engine or flat tire. They should be aware of the sites they visit and what they download, like a driver observes other cars and traffic hazards. And, they should always use protection like anti-virus programs but not solely rely on them, like a driver would wear a seatbelt but not take unnecessary risks just because a car is equipped with airbags.
Antivirus software often must wait to react to new threats, because the antivirus programs can’t simply anticipate new vulnerabilities to protect. This, by definition, means the malware authors are usually one step ahead of the antivirus programs. A much better first line of defense is a well-educated user, as people are more adept at reacting to new or unknown situations.
Some of the most commonly advised approaches to staying virus-free are as follows:
- Ask yourself if the email was anticipated or appears suspicious.
- Look for signs of forgery (hovering over links to determine where they go before clicking them).
- Scan any attachments before opening them directly from emails.
- Notify your I.T. department of concerns regarding unusual emails or attachments or links before attempting to use them – they may have seen them previously.
- Hand-type a web address in your browser rather than clicking a potentially bad link.
- Make sure your computer updates, anti-virus and firewall systems are up to date.
- Exercise healthy skepticism when receiving files or links online, especially if you did not initiate a specific request or download.
- Carefully read what you’re clicking, or agreeing to, before clicking a box or prompt or allowing installation.
- Never plug in a USB drive unless you know where it came from.
The old adage is certainly true with malware: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to remedy infections is to not get them in the first place!