You’ll often hear people in the computing world talking about antivirus and how important it is to have. But I bet you’ve always presumed that what you do on your computer isn’t important enough to need antivirus…
In fact, every single computer and internet user needs to have some antivirus protection – regardless of what that computer is used for.
While antivirus ‘does what it says on the tin’ and protects your system from and eliminates viruses, it also protects you from spam, identity theft and spyware. But how exactly does it work? Antivirus software scans and checks programs and files, matching it to a virus dictionary – any known virus or other type of malware. In addition, your software will also identify and monitor any suspicious behaviour typical to viruses (spyware, data recording, port monitoring etc.). The software will then either notify you, the user, with a solution or will eliminate the threat itself.
What are the actual threats you face every time you use a computer or device with internet access?
Viruses are probably the most common form of computer attack and are typically picked up by visiting a phishing website (a site you are directed to from a bogus email, where you are asked to enter or update personal details, which are then captured) or downloading corrupt files – often disguised as something seemingly innocent on a website or as an email attachment. You may think that you have a good idea of what to look out for, but even the most tech-savvy people are at risk. It’s not just technology that evolves and changes quicker than you can say ‘Windows 10’ – the viruses created by the hackers are also evolving and getting trickier to spot by the minute. To complicate matters, those dangerous emails can appear to come from an important and reputable organisation (think bank or internet service provider) or are sent by a completely unsuspecting friend or trusted contact. So what damage does a virus cause? An infected computer will more than likely perform at painfully slow speeds, has the potential to lose critical or personal files and in some more extreme cases, can lead to physical damage to the computer.
We’re all aware of how annoying spam is… Pop-up adverts that are in no way relevant to you and interrupt that video you were watching online, junk emails that appear every time you log in to your account… You get the picture. Well, as it turns out, spam is also often the result of a virus infected computer. Yes, that’s right. You can prevent spam!
It’s a fairly obvious statement that most of us like to keep our identity, financial information, passwords etc. safe. How much do you know about spyware and what it does? Spyware infects your computer and runs quietly behind the scenes, looking for your personal information or data and stores it as fast as you input it. This information is then used by the hacker to exploit your resources. For example, you are buying something online and have come to the final checkout section where you are inputting your credit card details. These details are recorded by the spyware and are used by the hacker for financial transactions. You’re basically handing your identity, passwords and payment details to a criminal. As well as using good security software, there are a few other things that can help you when shopping or banking online. At the payment section of the website, you should look out for a padlock symbol in the left hand side of the web address bar and the web address should begin ‘https://’ (the ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’) – both of these things indicate a reputable, secure site. If the site asks for any other information (i.e. Your card PIN number or online banking password) you know this is fake and should not proceed any further. If you are in any doubt when shopping online (and you’re not using a well-known site such as Amazon or Tesco Direct) do a quick Google search and see what comes back – if the site is not legitimate, the chances are that there will be loads of search results that indicate it is a scam. Better safe than sorry, right?
Another very topical and potentially severely damaging type of malware is ransomware. Although there are many different types of ransomware which act in different ways, their key features are the same. The ransomware will prevent your computer from being used normally (by encrypting files, stopping certain apps from running, preventing access to Windows etc.) until a ‘ransom’ is paid for the hacker to disable the ransomware. However, in some cases, even after money is exchanged the computer is still not returned to its normal working state. This year has seen some big organisations targeted by ransomware; BBC and The New York Times to name just a couple. If big corporations such as these, with their professionally managed IT systems and big budgets can fall foul to ransomware scams, surely the rest of us can too.
Heard a myth that you don’t need antivirus on your device? It is just that – a myth. All devices that can access the internet, whether you are running Windows, Mac OS, Android or Linux, need antivirus protection. While Macs are notably harder to hack, you could well be carrying and spreading a Windows virus. By having antivirus on your Mac, you would have detected that Windows virus and eliminated it before you had chance to unwittingly share it with your friends and family in the form of an email attachment.
So, still believe you don’t need antivirus? No, we didn’t think so!
There are numerous different antivirus products out there, but lots of choice can also mean the decision about what is right for you is more difficult. For basic web surfing and minimal use, a free version or antivirus may be sufficient, and there are plenty of well known examples out there for you to choose from. Most free antivirus programs will offer basic protection against viruses, but are not sophisticated enough to protect you against spam and spyware. For those of you that use your device for banking, shopping, communication and anything that involves storing your sensitive data, documents and family photos, it is best to opt for a higher level of protection offered with paid software. While there are again many different choices, our personal preference (used by ourselves, our families, and both our business and domestic customers) is Panda Internet Security 2016. It offers all the features you need, for different numbers of devices, for a year. Not sure how to install it? We can take care of that for you too.
Don’t risk it, protect yourself and your computer with antivirus. (You can thank us later…)
PCs PCs are based in Glastonbury High Street, Somerset and we would love to hear from you. Pop in for a chat about your antivirus or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01458 833900.