How to Avoid Spyware, Adware, Viruses, etc.

This article will help you to discover ways to avoid malicious software that can cause your Mac or Windows PC problems.

Most Windows users will encounter malicious software at some time or another. But the frequency of these encounters can be greatly reduced by keeping in mind some general tips.

Tips for Avoiding Malicious Software

You should keep in mind a few important things while using your computer to check email, install programs, browse the Internet or chat:

  1. Windows PC only: Use programs such as Norton AntiVirus (or McAfee VirusScan), Lavasoft AdAware and SpyBot-Search an Destroy to scan for malicious software and to immunize and protect your PC from viruses, spyware, adware, worms, etc.
  2. Always keep your computer up-to-date, with the latest software updates. On PCs, use Windows Update (in the Control Panel). On Macs, click on the Apple Menu and choose "Software Update..."
  3. Never open any attachments on emails that either you don't know who they're from or you don't already know what is in the attachment. Some malicious software can even make an email look like it was sent to you from a friend or relative! Better to be safe than sorry.
  4. When installing new software, ALWAYS watch the installer and make sure you know what's being installed. Some programs will ask you if they can install additional software. This additional software is often unnecessary and can cause problems on your computer.
  5. Don't use Internet Explorer unless you absolutely HAVE to. Internet Explorer is full of vulnerabilities and bugs. Plus, alternative browsers such as Safari (Mac only) and FireFox (Mac or PC) are faster, offer more advanced features, and are more secure than Internet Explorer.
  6. If you chat using AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! IM or another service, don't click on links sent to you by friends unless you are absolutely sure your friend intended to send them!
  7. Windows PC Only: If you see a window pop up while you're browsing the Internet, or if you close your web browser window and you see a window that looks like an error message, warning, or otherwise legitimate window, beware—it could be a link to spyware. If you see the link cursor instead of your mouse button when you move your mouse over the 'cancel' or 'X' button, DON'T click! Instead, you may have to force-close the window by pressing 'Control-Alt-Del' and quitting it via the Task Manager.
  8. Don't download 'free' software unless you really need it and/or it doesn't seem 'too good to be true'. Many 'free' programs, such as the WeatherBug, the MySearch bar, and many file-sharing programs (such as BearShare, Kazaa, and LimeWire) can make your computer run slow and also send information from your computer to marketing companies (including personal information!).