Computer viruses and their pesky removal can be a real pain. One risky click could cause your computer to slow down, perform in a bizarre manner, or wipe out all your stored files. Fortunately, most computers are equipped with antivirus software that prevents this nightmare, and consequently, traditional computer viruses are at a current low. However, other forms of malware (the blanket term for any malicious software program meant to wreak havoc on your computer) are continuing to plague the average internet consumer.
The most common malware scheme in 2019 is phishing — the fraudulent attempt to obtain users’ personal information, such as passwords and account information. A cybercriminal lures its victims by posing as a trustworthy or legitimate entity — your bank, credit card company, a social media friend, or company you do regular business with —that needs immediate response or urgent action. Typically, a phishing email or text will tell a compelling story that persuades you to click on a link and provide your personal information. This scam can be elaborate and difficult to detect. For instance, you may receive an official-looking email from your credit card company that tells you its system has been hacked and you need to update your account information to avoid having your account frozen. Even the most cautious users can fall prey to this scheme. Read below for some suggestions from the Federal Trade Commission as to how to prevent this most common form of malware.
- Update security software: Most computers have built-in security software, but it is important that users continually update to the newest versions. Set software to update automatically in your computer settings.
- Use multifactor authentication: Some accounts offer this feature to enter a password plus a text authentication code or fingerprint.
- Backup your data: Use an external hard drive or the cloud to regularly backup your data.
- Never click on the email link of an unknown sender.
- If you know the sender, whether an acquaintance or business, call them directly for verification.
- Forward suspected phishing spam to email@example.com and report to ftc.gov/complaint
Most computers have built-in malware prevention and detection programs. IT experts recommend adding a third-party antivirus program, because even the free versions outperform the computer’s built-in version. Here is the critics’ top pick:
This comprehensive antivirus security suite detects and repairs any infected programming. Critics say that it helps to extend battery life and functionality. A free version can be downloaded here.
BY MEGAN M. SECKMAN