As computer viruses and other malicious software become increasingly hard-hitting and sophisticated, it behooves all of us to take cybersecurity seriously. Even if you’ve managed to avoid assorted cyber threats out of sheer luck up to this point, said luck is bound to eventually run out. So, if cybersecurity has consistently been placed on the backburner, now would be a good year to reexamine your priorities. In the interest of keeping your personal computers virus-free in the new year, put the following tips to good use.
Install Dependable Antivirus Software
In 2021, no computer should be without dedicated antivirus software. While popular operating systems like Windows and macOS contain built-in virus-fighting properties, these are no substitute for a dependable antivirus program. If anything, your operating system and antivirus software should work hand-in-hand to detect, identify and ultimately remove viruses, malware and other threats.
Of course, to get the most out of your O.S. or dedicated antivirus software, you’ll need to keep both of them up to date. This means installing updates – many of which are created in response to newly surfaced threats – in a timely manner instead of allowing them to pile up.
Use a Virtual Private Network
Despite being around for a good long while, virtual private networks, or “VPNs,” haven’t become commonplace until fairly recently. Although using a VPN is sure to serve you well in a number of areas, it can be particularly useful for people who regularly use public Wi-Fi. As convenient as public networks are, their ease of accessibility makes them popular hunting grounds for virus spreaders, data thieves and various other types of cybercriminals. In essence, a VPN enables you to create a private network from a public internet connection and routes all your data traffic through an encrypted private tunnel. So, if you absolutely insist on visiting sites that require you to input personal information on a public network, make sure to have a good VPN in your corner.
Most VPNs will require users to pay a small monthly fee. While not wanting to spend money is certainly understandable, the vast majority of VPN subscriptions are available on virtually any budget and shouldn’t run you more than $10 a month. If spending money on a VPN subscription is out of the question, consider looking into free alternatives. While free VPNs are readily available, they generally won’t provide the same level of protection you’ll get with paid options.
Amend Your Browsing Habits
Although many browsers provide users with warnings about unsecured websites, a fair number of us won’t hesitate to shrug off these warnings and visit sites that are teeming with viruses and malware. This behavior is particularly common amongst people who have been lucky enough to never have their computer beset by viruses and other cyber threats. All it takes is one bad decision for your luck to run out, so if you’re serious about keeping viruses at bay, you’d be wise to amend your browsing habits.
For starters, this means never visiting websites that your browser explicitly warns you about. Furthermore, even if your browser doesn’t present you with a warning, make sure to steer clear of sites that lack Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certification. To determine whether a site has SSL, simply look at the URL and confirm that it begins with “HTTP.” At the very least, you should avoid providing personal information to any site without an SSL certificate. Secondly, look for a Site Identity button before visiting a new URL, as this indicates that your connection to the site is secure. This button is represented by a small padlock icon and can generally be found to the left of the URL.
Viruses and malware can make life extremely stressful. If a virus finds its way onto your PC, the consequences can range from “diminished system performance” to “hopelessly compromised personal information.” In the best-case scenario, a virus will inconvenience you. In the worst, it will facilitate full-on identity theft and place your finances at risk. As such, there’s no time like the present to start bolstering your defenses. Even if you’ve failed to take cybersecurity threats seriously in the past, it’s never too late to course-correct. Anyone looking to make 2021 a computer virus-free year should take the measures discussed above.