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How to Avoid Malware

Here at Phone Medics Plus, we’re committed to helping you get your computer back in top form after a virus or malware infection, but we also know how much you rely on your computer, and how inconvenient it can be to go without it for a day or two while it’s being repaired. With that in mind, we wanted to give you some tips on the best way to keep your computer safe and healthy and free of malware.

Safe Browsing Habits

Your first and most important line of defense when it comes to keeping your computer safe from malware is to establish safe browsing habits. If we think of malware as germs, then this is like avoiding contaminated surfaces. You don’t eat food off the floor, you don’t let your baby lick the grocery cart handle, and you practice safe browsing habits when you’re on the internet. The first step to safe browsing is simply to avoid questionable websites. These sorts of sites take many forms – some offer you too-good-to-be-true deals on vacations or impossible deals on products or free downloads of that movie that just came out that you can’t wait to see. These websites can infect your computer in a few ways, but the most common one is by tricking you into downloading something. You should never download anything from a website you don’t absolutely trust, and if a website you aren’t sure about tries to download something to your computer, that’s your cue to leave.

To give your safe browsing habits a boost, there are a few handy browser extensions that will increase your security. Ad-blockers like Adblock Plus or uBlock Origin, and tracking blockers like Disconnect, Privacy Badger, or Ghostery will go a long way toward helping keep you safe and virus free in your travels around the internet.

That said, you should avoid downloading browser extensions, including toolbars, from anywhere but your browser’s official marketplace (the Google Chrome Webstore or Firefox’s Add-Ons page). Toolbars and other browser extensions have been a popular tool for malware creators for years. They can monitor your browsing habits, inject extra ads into the websites you visit, and even hijack your browser.

Sneaky Check Boxes

Sometimes when you’re installing legitimate software, you get on a roll and just keep clicking Next… Next… Next, without necessarily reading what you’re agreeing to. Most of the time this doesn’t cause any great problem. Sometimes, though, the installation finishes up and you discover that software you didn’t want has been installed on your computer alongside the program you wanted. The reason is pretty simple: one of those screens where you clicked Next or OK without reading it had a checkbox that said you agreed to install the second program.

If you don't un-check this box, you'll install more software than you intended to.
While programs that install this way are often harmless, antivirus programs will flag many of them when they scan your system. You’ll see them in scan reports as PUPs - Potentially Unwanted Programs.

The best way to avoid having these sorts of programs installed on your computer is to simply read all those screens you usually click through. Keep a lookout for any references to other software, and make sure to uncheck any boxes that say you’re agreeing to install it on your system.

Stay Up-to-Date

Your second line of defense is keeping your computer’s operating system up to date. A lot of malware exploits design flaws in your computer’s operating system. Microsoft and Apple understand that, so they usually do a good job of fixing those flaws as soon as they find them. The same goes for your browser. Google and Mozilla are always on the lookout for security flaws in their browsers (Google even holds an annual hack-a-thon with prizes for people who find new security flaws), and are usually good about getting flaws patched quickly.

If you keep your computer and your browser up-to-date you’ll protect yourself from a lot of the malware out there. These updates are the vaccines that keep your computer from ever getting viruses, even when it’s exposed to them.

Anti-Malware Software

The truth is, probably 90% of malware can be avoided just by practicing safe browsing habits and keeping your computer up to date – just like you can usually avoid getting sick by staying away from contaminated environments and staying up to date on your vaccines. For the other 10%, there are software tools that will help you stay safe. Have you ever seen someone at the airport wearing a surgical mask so they don’t get sick? Do you carry hand sanitizer in your purse? Wash your hands after a trip to the bathroom or after touching something dirty? That’s what these tools are: they keep your computer clean even when it gets contaminated.

If your PC is running Windows 10, then you’ve already got a couple of these tools built in: Windows Defender comes with active monitoring and malware removal tools, and it’s built right into your operating system, so if you do nothing else, then at least make sure Windows Defender is on. There are also free antivirus programs like Bitdefender and Kaspersky that provide excellent real-time monitoring of your system. Even with Bitdefender, Kaspersky, or Windows Defender running, though, it’s good to have a little extra protection. You can do that by downloading a second antivirus software – the free version of Malwarebytes is a great option – and running periodic scans with it. You’ll want to make sure that your secondary software does not do real-time protection, though, since two antivirus programs trying to run real-time protection at the same time can cause major system problems.

Call The Professionals

Unfortunately, even if you follow all these safety habits, sometimes your computer will still get sick. If it does, that’s when you want to bring it to the trained professionals at Phone Medics Plus. When you bring your sick computer to us, our skilled and knowledgeable technicians can get it healthy again. You can call us, book an appointment online, or visit our repair facility at 91 E. Merritt Island Causeway in Merritt Island, 


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