The best way to protect your computer from viruses and malware
How do you protect your computer? You have to know what the biggest threat is. Are you concerned about viruses or other malware? Maybe you have data you cannot afford to lose. Or you might need to keep people using your computer away from certain information. You might need all of the above.
Protecting against malware is tricky. Conventional wisdom says to avoid questionable corners of the Internet like porn or warez sites. That used to be a good first step, but today the bad guys are injecting malware into legitimate sites where thousands of people may be exposed infected before the site notices the problem. To protect against malware you need good anti-virus (AV) software. There are good packages for PC and Mac ranging from free to over $100. Most paid – and some free – packages protect against both virus’ and spyware. Avast Free and AVG Free are two popular free AV packages. They also have paid versions. McAfee and Norton are two popular commercial software packages.
If protecting data is the primary concern, a good backup plan is crucial. Backups can be made to another hard drive, tape, DVD’s or to a remote location over the Internet. The best backup plans usually involve the backup being in a different location than the original data. One way to do that is use a backup service. There are a number of off-site backup services available. When you choose an off-site backup service look for ease of use, secure file transfer and version tracking. Twenty-four hour support is something you hope you will never need, but hard drives crash on their own time so it’s a strong need, if not a must-have. Carbonite and Mozy are two reputable off-site backup providers.
When multiple people use one computer modern operating systems allow multiple user accounts so each user has their own ‘space.’ But if the accounts are not set up correctly, users can see inside each other’s accounts. Even if the accounts are set to prevent users seeing each other’s data, a hacker can get into other users accounts without much difficulty. Encrypting files, or your entire drive, protects your data. You can encrypt certain files or folders, or even the entire hard drive. One important thing to remember about encrypting data – if you lose the encryption key the files are probably lost forever. If you share your computer, or are concerned about a thief getting your computer and taking information from it then encryption is your best option. Truecrypt is an open source option that is widely used and trusted. Windows 7 and MacOS X both provide encryption users can turn on for their accounts, and there are several commercial options available.
The best protection for your computer will vary depending on how you use it, but covering these three issues will provide the best protection for most uses.