Sadly, common sense alone isn’t enough to protect your Windows PC from malware – malicious software that disrupts your computer’s operations or gathers sensitive information about your online behaviour.
Hackers can attack your PC in so many different ways that employing several layers of anti-malware protection is the only way to keep your PC malware-free when it’s online. Here are seven steps to protect your computer from Malware.
Tip 1: Install, update and use anti-virus software
Installing antivirus software may sound like an obvious first step to protect against malware, but not everyone bothers to do it. With so many options now available, though, there really is no excuse. Microsoft offers its own free protection in the form of the Windows Defender Security Centre - read more about it here.
Alternatively, BT Virus Protect is available free to BT broadband customers. Check out the box below to find out more.
Once installed, it’s vital to regularly update your anti-malware software’s database and run system scans at least once a month.
Tip 2: Keep Windows up to date
Hackers often discover new ways to bypass Windows’ built-in security features, which is why Microsoft issues small operating system updates every Tuesday and larger updates once or twice a year. These will be downloaded and installed automatically by Windows Update, but only if this feature is properly configured.
Windows Update cannot be switched off by default in Windows 10, you should be receving updates already. However, if you'd like to check for a new update, search Windows Update from the Start Menu and click Check for updates.
Tip 3: Turn on the Windows firewall
Windows has a built-in ‘firewall’ that protects your PC from unwanted attention via the internet. This software firewall is enabled by default and works alongside any hardware firewall that’s built into your home broadband router. Check its settings by typing “check firewall” in the Start menu search box and choosing Check firewall status from the results.
Three green tick marks mean the firewall is working normally - if not, select each one to turn the firewall on.
Tip 4: Use the latest version of your web browser
Web browsers are vital applications, but just like other software, they can contain bugs. Hackers are quick to capitalise on these and create bogus (or infect genuine) web sites with data designed to exploit them. Once a web browser has been compromised in this way, a hacker can monitor everything you type, including passwords to credit card numbers. That’s why it’s vital to use the latest version of your web browser - anything other than this may be a security risk.
Internet Explorer is on its way out to make way for Microsoft Edge, so don't expect to use that forever. Edge, like Google Chrome and Firefox browsers, should automatically update themselves.
Tip 5: Don’t fall for phishing emails
Emails that appear to be from a recognisable online service asking you to log into a site to confirm some personal details are always fake.
These emails are usually caught by your email application’s spam filter, but if one does slip through and you click its link, your web browser should detect and block the site it takes you to.
This does depend on your web browser being aware of the fraudulent site, though, which is another good reason to always use the most recent version.
Tip 6: Use the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool
If you suspect your PC has succumbed to malware and your anti-malware software doesn’t detect it, there are two steps to take.
The first is to download and run the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool from the Windows Download Centre. This will detect and remove specific types of malware and is very simple to use, although it isn’t a replacement for a full anti-malware application.
Tip 7: Still infected? Use a boot CD.
Some malware can hide within Windows and make itself difficult to detect and remove. If your own anti-malware software and the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool fail to shift it, you’ll need to download and burn a free anti-malware boot CD – refer to your computer’s manuals for instructions on how to boot from a CD as the process varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 is a good one, but never download it on an infected PC -ask a friend to do it, if necessary. This will then scan your PC for malware without the need for Windows, which makes removal that much easier.