I grew up on a Packard Bell 486 desktop. We had one anti-virus program on the Windows 3.1 machine and we never updated it or installed anything else. Naturally, we eventually ran into our first virus incident, a boot sector virus that I still found years later on infected game floppies. Twenty+ years later, malware is considerably more sophisticated and prevalent.
It’s hard to guarantee that you’ll stay 100% infection free when you regularly are connected to the Internet, but there are certainly steps you can take to make your computer a little safer.
Always have anti-virus/anti-malware software installed. Make sure that the software is kept up-to-date. What do you have installed? When does your subscription expire? I recommend Bitdefender. They offer free and paid versions.
Windows Update should be enabled to download system patches and upgrades. As great as automatic updates are, you don’t want them happening at inconvenient times. In Windows 10, this can be altered by:
Click Start, Settings > Update & security > Windows Update, and then choose Advanced options.
Under choose how updates are installed, select either Schedule a restart or Automatically restart.
Install and use alternative web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. These generally pose less of a security risk. I haven’t tried out Edge extensively, so I will not give my opinion on it just yet. The folks over at Digital Trends recently compared the top browsers. TL;DR Chrome is still king.
Update your applications regularly. I recommend PatchMyPC to ease the process. With only a few clicks, you can update your browsers and applications like Java and Quicktime.
E-mail is a common way of getting infected. While you can safely open an e-mail, never click on a link within it or open an attachment that you are not positive is from a trusted source. If in doubt, delete the e-mail.
Websites. Visiting adult, free games, or gambling sites pose a high risk of infection. In addition, do not download software or “add-ons” from websites that you are unfamiliar with. Do not click on sudden pop-up windows while browsing the Internet. Ads from seemingly harmless websites can even be a source of infection.
File Sharing. Stay away from file sharing sites unless: 1.) You understand the risks; 2.) You don’t mind bringing your PC in for frequent malware removal. Sites that distribute illegal software, music, or movies are full of viruses. This includes torrent or other forms of peer-to-peer activities.