Virus Protection You Should Install Right Now
When the first-ever personal computer virus, Brain, was wreaking havoc worldwide, I was an undergrad computer engineering student. It was fascinating to have a front-row seat to watch that episode unfold. Once I studied how the Brain virus operated, I found it easy to beat, all by myself. But today’s viruses are more complex, and they are not the only kind of malware.
Most small business owners know it’s important to take malware and computer virus prevention seriously. Yet, with time and money at a premium, it’s easy to put off. That is, of course, until tragedy strikes. But setting up safeguards doesn’t have to take a lot of time and definitely doesn’t need to be expensive. Here’s what to know.
What Is Malware?
Malware is a contraction of the term: malicious software. It can cause a lot of harm to your computer system and your business: It can delete your files, steal sensitive information, read emails, send emails to your contacts (that appear to come from you), install and run software on your computer, and even access your online bank and credit card accounts, among other things. Types of malware and rogue software include:
- Viruses that spread from computer to computer, and cause them to malfunction
- Worms that spread automatically, and often piggyback on spoofed emails
- Trojans that are a malicious program hidden inside other programs
- Spyware that collects information from your computer
- Adware that forcibly displays ads on your computer
- Keyloggers that track all your keyboard activity, collecting your emails addresses, passwords
Choosing the Right Software
It’s easy to think the more expensive the software, the better the virus protection. Opinions vary, but my experience has been that free software tends to be just as good. Paid software may offer a larger spectrum of protection, have more frequent updates, and customer support.
One compelling reason to opt for paid software is the presence of enterprise solutions—when you do not want to install individual packages on each computer and would prefer to have centralized control across your network. If you have a network of 8 or more computers, then you should consider getting a software suite that allows you to administer the malware protection software centrally.
In my opinion, the top free malware protection software options: Avast, AVG, and Avira. (I use AVG.) You can read reviews and compare the offerings to select the best software for your needs. All three have paid versions, too. I do not use paid malware protection, but I’ve evaluated the following and would recommend: AVG, Bitdefender, F Secure, Kaspersky, McAfee, or Norton.
Virus Protection Best Practices
Use of malware protection software should be your last line of defense. Make sure you and your employees are also following these best practices:
- Download email attachments only when the email is from a known source, and you know what the attachment is.
- If your browser has a security-level setting, set it to “high.”
- Never follow email links that ask you for personal details, even if those emails appear to originate from your bank or credit card issuer.
- Do not install software on your computer systems unless you are sure that it’s safe.
- Discourage, or even ban, your employees from inserting storage devices (e.g. pen drives) into office computers.
Signs You’ve Been Hacked
Short of using an updated version of a powerful malware scanner, there’s really no foolproof way to detect a system infection. However, some malware can leave a footprint. Common suspicious signs are: new icons that show up in your programs or applications lists; significant deterioration of system performance, including unwarranted restarts and system-hangs; unexplained home pages when you open your browser; and unexpected pop-ups and pop-downs while browsing sites.
While you may feel too busy to stay on top of cybersecurity, it doesn’t have to take a long time and it’s worth the effort. Reliable sites to learn more are Stay Safe Online, an initiative of the National Cyber Security Alliance, and On Guard Online, which is run by the federal government.