How to Protect Your Computer from Viruses and Malware

By making a few simple changes to your devices and accounts, you can protect yourself from unwanted attempts by third parties to access your data, as well as protect your privacy from those with whom you do not agree to share your information. Getting started is easy. Here is guidelines to protect your digital data safe and secure.

Use These Tools

Use available tools wisely to keep your data secure.

Secure your accounts

Why: Over the past decade, companies such as Equifax, Facebook, Home Depot, Marriott, Target, Yahoo, and many others have been exposed to data and password leaks. If you have any online accounts, it’s very probable that at least one of them has had data stolen by hackers.

How: Everyone should use a password manager to create and remember different, complex passwords for each account—the most important thing people can do today to protect their privacy and security. The password managers that Wirecutter prefers the most are LastPass and 1Password. Both can generate passwords, look out for security holes, advise changing too-simple passwords, and sync passwords between your computer and phone. Password managers seem intimidating to set up, but once you’ve installed them, you just need to browse the internet like you normally would. When you sign in to accounts, the password manager saves your passwords and prompts you to change weak or duplicate passwords. Within a couple of weeks, you will receive new passwords for most of your accounts. Take this time to also change the default passwords for any devices in your home – if your home router, smart light bulbs, or security cameras still use “password” or “1234” as the password, change them.

Everyone should also use two-step verification whenever possible for their online accounts. Most banks and big social media companies provide this option. As the name suggests, two-step verification requires two steps: entering a password and entering a number that only you have access to.

Protect your Web browsing

Why: Every internet action is tracked by businesses and websites.. Each ad, social media button, and website collects information about your location, browsing habits, and more. The collected data reveals more about you than you might expect. You may think you’re smart because you’ve never tweeted about your medical issues or shared all of your religious beliefs on Facebook.

How: A browser add-on like uBlock Origin disables advertisements and the information they gather. The uBlock Origin extension also prevents malware from running in your browser and gives you an easy way to disable your ad blocker when you want to support sites you know are safe. Many websites offer ways to opt out of data collection, but you need to do it manually. Simple Opt Out has direct links to instructions on how to opt out of major sites like Netflix, Reddit, and more.

You must also install the HTTPS Everywhere extension. HTTPS Everywhere automatically directs you to a secure version of a site if the site supports it, making it harder for an attacker — especially if you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop, airport, or hotel — to digitally listen in on what you’re doing.

Use antivirus software on your computer

Why: Viruses may not seem as common as they were ten years ago, but they still exist. Malicious software on your computer can do all sorts of harm, from annoying pop-ups to sneaky bitcoin mining and scanning personal information. If you are at risk of clicking on dangerous links, or if you share a computer with several family members, it is worth installing antivirus software, especially on Windows computers. You can protect your computer from viruses and malware.

How: If your computer is running Windows 10, then you should use Microsoft’s built-in software, Windows Defender. Windows Defender offers enough security for most people and is the main antivirus that Wirecutter recommends; we came to this conclusion after speaking with several experts. If you’re running an older version of Windows (although we recommend upgrading to Windows 10) or if you’re using a shared PC, you may need a second level of protection. Malwarebytes Premium is best suited for this purpose. Malwarebytes is unobtrusive, works well with Windows Defender, and doesn’t pop up dozens of annoying notifications like most antivirus utilities do.

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