Training Guide for Home Computer Maintenance Written by: Isabella Ava
Computer viruses can seriously disrupt your ability to manage work, keep up with emails and perform any of the hundreds of tasks now routinely assigned to the personal computer. Once your computer has been infected, virus removal can be expensive and time-consuming, depending on the severity of the attack. The best solution is prevention. Learn how to minimize risk of contagion with good computing practices.
Avoid Questionable Websites
Websites offering questionable services or products are among the greatest risk to your computer's health. Avoid visiting sites which offer illegal downloads or peer-sharing platforms. In general, look for signs of legitimacy, such as an online businesses' real-world presence. Avoid clicking on links to well-known websites from within spam emails. Often they are fake versions of well-known sites.
- Habits to Avoid: Claremont McKenna College's Department of Information Technology Services offers tips for safe online computing.
- How to Identify and Protect Yourself from an Unsafe Website: This article from Boston University's IT department instructs on safe web browsing practices.
- How to Research Questionable Web Sites: Skagit Valley College Library offers listings of known scam websites.
- Spam and Phishing: The United States Federal Trade Commission provides helpful information on spam, phishing and safe browsing.
In many cases, visiting suspicious websites isn't what actually gets a person in trouble. The real harm occurs when you begin to download infected programs, whether knowingly or not. Be especially watchful when downloading, assessing the source of the program and noting the exact contents of your download, itself.
- How To Avoid Installing Software You Don't Want: Consumer Reports helps you avoid inadvertent, potentially harmful downloads.
- How To Avoid Downloading A Fake Anti-Virus: This article explains the risks of downloading fake anti-virus programs.
- The Dangers of Downloading Software from Unofficial Sites: This security article describes the risks of downloading from unofficial download sites.
- Tips for Safe Downloading: These tips from the Northwest Missouri State University Information Technology Newsletter cover a range of safe downloading practices.
Adjust Browser Settings
- How to Change Your Browser Security Settings: Cornell University's IT department teaches you to set up safer settings in Internet Explorer.
- Web Browser Secure Settings: This guide from the University of California Santa Cruz Information Technology Services outlines the best settings for Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.
- Privacy Settings in Browsers: A guide by MIT's department of Information Systems and Technology focuses on the safest privacy settings for your browser.
- Basic Web Browser Security Settings: This comprehensive guide advises on the safest settings for Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Opera.
Pay Attention to Extensions
Many browser extensions save time and add convenience, making them appealing to many. However, many free extensions offer some convenient service while spying on your web browsing. Avoid carelessly downloading extensions, which can contain spyware, adware and viruses.
- Securing Your Web Browser: These instructions help you secure your web browser to automatically detect and block third-party extensions.
- Warning: Your Browser Extensions Are Spying On You: This lengthy catalog of extensions-to-avoid includes dozens of examples of known adware, spyware and tracking extensions.
- Top 10 Firefox Extensions to Avoid: This article lists ten common Firefox extensions to avoid.
- Think Twice Before Installing Chrome Extensions: This article shows the dangerous statistics for extensions with malware.
Open At Your Own Risk
In essence, never open a program you don't completely trust. When you do download software, don't blindly click through the download and installation process. Many free programs are bundled with extensions that can be dangerous. These add-ons compromise your privacy or infect your computer with viruses.
- Malware, Spyware and Adware: An article by the State of Rhode Island's Computer Crimes Unit explains the risks of bundled adware, malware, spyware and viruses.
- This explanation of spyware and adware advises on practical, preventative steps.
- Download Dangers: What Is Safe to Download Online?: This article addresses frequently asked questions about safe downloading.
- Why Free Software Downloads Aren't Always Safe: This article details the best practices on where and how to safely download software.
The first step to internet safety is to install good anti-virus software. Only download a reliable program from a reputable website. Your program should be up-to-date and cover against malware and spyware as well as viruses.
- Understanding Anti-Virus Software: This basic guide explains how anti-virus programs work and how to choose a reliable program.
- Anti-Virus Software: An article from Texas A&M University explains the importance of regular antivirus program updates.
- The Colorado government provides information on the detection of rogue anti-virus software, including warning signs and safety measures.
Firewalls can help protect your computer from harmful intrusion in the form of spyware, viruses and other malicious code. In order to make your personal firewalls serve their purpose, you'll need to learn how to adjust their settings on your own computer.
- Using a Firewall: Columbia University's IT department explains various types of firewalls and what they do.
- Use Desktop Firewalls: A guide by the University of Chicago IT services instructs on desktop firewalls for Windows, Mac and Unix/Linux operating systems.
- Cyber-Safety Basics: Turn on Personal Firewalls: Instructions provided by the UCDavis Information and Educational Technology teach how to turn on personal firewalls.
- Firewalls: What They Are, What They Can Do for You: A guide from the University of Texas at Austin explains the limits of firewall protection.
Backup Your Data
In addition to many preventative measures against viruses, you can take precautionary steps to minimize potential damage, should your computer be affected by a virus. By backing up your personal data, you can reduce the odds of losing valuable files in case something goes wrong.
- The Truth About Computers: What Every Computer User Needs to Know: This pamphlet explains a range of security measures, including good backup practices.
- How to Back Up Data to a USB Flash Drive: The University of Delaware provides instructions on how to back up your data with just a flash drive.
- Backup: Do You Own Data?: This comprehensive article explains options for backing up data.
- FAQ About Backing Up Your Data: This Q&A addresses the most common questions about data backup.