This article is how you can defend against viruses where the best and last line of defence is you.
Viruses are programs designed to alter the state of your data, either to make money or just ruin your day. They’ll delete, encrypt or spy on your data but I would say that you can stop around 99% of viruses by following some simple measures.
Don’t Be Stupid
Simple really. You receive an email about a subject that’s totally random to you and it has an attachment or web link then be careful. Apply these rules:
- Is this an email from someone you know or have been communicating with?
- Is the grammar or subject matter what you would expect from this person?
- Is the email address correct? When you see an email and it looks like it’s from a name you recognise there are two parts to it. You’ll see the name and SMTP address, i.e. Joe Bloggs <firstname.lastname@example.org> . Emails get spoofed all the time so check the SMTP (joe.bloggs@) bit and see if it’s correct. Chances are it’s a random address created by a hacker.
- Does the web link look correct? If you hover over the link but the hover shows a completely different web address then they are trying to trick you by making it look like a legitimate website.
- If you’re a middle aged bloke with a beer gut and you’re being enticed by emails from the young nubile Emily who wants you to click on her web link to chat then don’t. She’s not really going to show you her boobs.
Don’t let curiosity get the better of you. Just delete the email and don’t open the attachment or click on the link. If you do then you’ll unleash hell onto your PC. If it’s a legitimate email then the person will chase it by another email or call you if it’s important.
To be safe, make sure that Macros in your Microsoft Office programs are turned off so that don’t work automatically. If you receive an attachment that asks you to enable Macros then it’s highly likely you’re about to say goodbye to your data.
Patch Those Holes
Viruses typically take advantage of vulnerabilities in your software. These weaknesses are patched regularly by the software vendors hence you see Windows Updates or Adobe updates. Don’t ignore them. They patch the holes to prevent the vulnerability being exploited. If a software requires an update (and this is not limited to Microsoft or Adobe) then update it.
Do The Obvious
It goes without saying but you really need to use anti virus software and don’t think that having a Mac you’ll escape. Hackers are quite happy to go after Apple fanboys as much as they are Windows. Sophos are one of the most trusted anti-virus vendors going and they do a free home network version for up to 10 devices. Well worth it if you don’t currently have software and the link is below.
Lastly, remember about your back ups. Have at least one back that you don’t automatically access on a day to day basis. If you can easily navigate to it then so can the virus which, at that point, you’re stuffed.