6 tips to avoid getting a virus on the internet

When it comes to the internet, virus protection is a major concern of every user who’s browsing it. Rightfully so – viruses can steal your valuable information, delete your files and slow down your computer, or even cause it to stop working altogether.

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Cybercriminals have learned a lot over the years, making it more difficult to spot where a virus could come from. If you follow these six tips, you’ll have a better idea of how to spot a virus on the internet.

1. Install antivirus software

Let’s call a spade a spade: if you want to avoid getting a virus on the internet, antivirus software is an essential solution. Cyberthreats have evolved and everyday activities like online banking, shopping and browsing can make you more vulnerable to cyberthreats.

Viruses are included as a cyberthreat, which is why it’s essential to keep your device protected against them. Norton 360 provides powerful layers of protection for your device, all in a single solution. While you receive protection against viruses and ransomware, you also get protection against phishing and other online threats as you bank, shop and browse online.

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2. Be careful with email attachments

Email providers like Gmail and Outlook ask for your permission before downloading an attachment for a reason: they can be dangerous. While these services often have virus protection built into their software, emails with viruses as attachments can still get through their defences.

Cybercriminals who are looking to spread a virus may resort to spamming emails with malicious attachments to as many people as possible, hoping that one of the users opens it. Once opened and executed, the virus will immediately install in the background and begin its work.

If you don’t know the person who sent you an email attachment – or if the email looks like it could be a phishing attempt – then ignoring it might be your best option. Only download files from your email if you trust the source explicitly.

Similarly, disable image previews within your email software. This feature can be found in the options or settings of the programme. Some viruses can attach to images and install themselves as soon as the email is opened. Configuring your settings to only show images from trusted sources can help prevent an accident from turning into a virus.

3. Patch your operating system and applications

Vendors like Microsoft and Adobe routinely put out software updates in an attempt to make computers or software safer to use. Without them, cybercriminals can abuse “security loopholes” and force a device to download a virus.

This cyberthreat – called software vulnerabilities – lurks in the background of many users’ computers who do all they can to avoid viruses on the internet. The only way to ensure that you’ve covered this risk is to regularly update your software whenever a patch is available.

4. Avoid dodgy websites

People spend a lot of time browsing the internet. In the UK for instance, the average person spends a day per week online, Ofcom found in a report.

All that searching for the best meme or next great show to stream can lead to interesting parts of the web – including some dodgy parts. There are over 1.5 billion websites in the world, and not all of them have the best intentions. The bad ones that pose a cyberthreat will use a variety of tools to download a virus to your computer, like drive-by downloads, hosting malicious advertisements and getting you to click on misleading links.

Avoid clicking on links to websites with suspicious names, like mixtures of letters and numbers that don’t resemble words. Also be on the lookout for websites that share names of trusted brands, like Norton or Google, but have a variation within the URL. If there’s extra symbols in the URL, chances are it’s a fake website.

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5. Stay away from pirated software

We’re not here to argue the morals of pirating software – otherwise known as getting a free copy of a game, movie or application that everyone else has to pay for. The fact of the matter is that people download cracked or illegal versions of software and they should know that this is risky for their computer.

Pirated software either comes from difficult-to-find websites or peer-to-peer sharing, both of which contain crowds that are just looking for their favourite movie and those who are looking to spread a virus.

With no virus protection built into what’s being downloaded, it’s easy for a cybercriminal to slip in a virus in a free application. Sometimes there won’t even be any free software – just a virus!

Exercise caution when downloading anything free and, if you do download pirated files, make sure you’re using antivirus software.

6. Backup your computer

While this tip won’t help you avoid getting a virus on the internet, it will help you avoid some of the damage and stress that comes with it if you do.

By regularly using a cloud backup, you can keep copies of all your important files and records in a location that won’t be contaminated by the virus. Then, should you become a victim of a computer virus that’s difficult to get rid of without damaging your files, you can simply wipe your device and restore it to the most recent point before it was infected.

Be sure to get a cloud backup package that’s sizable enough where nothing is left out. The PC Cloud Backup that comes with Norton 360 solutions, for instance, can support up to 75 gigabytes in files – more than enough for most people to more safely stow away their personal and financial records.