To keep your computer moving as fast as the day you bought it, it's important that small business owners and employees take the time to develop healthy virus-protection habits. Viruses are invasive computer programs that can piggyback on or masquerade as other files downloaded from the internet, and can cause both aggressive and subtle damage to your computer's regular operation. Whether it's the sort of malicious software that tries to convince you to give it personal information under false pretenses (eg: rogue security software), spyware which collects private data on your computer activities, or something more dastardly that can wipe entire hard drives, it's important to take steps to protect your computer and your personal information from unwanted invasions.
1. Purchase Anti-Virus Protection
Preemptive defense against viruses and other malware starts with getting the proper antivirus software. Antivirus programs differ slightly from program to program, and so you should fully research the programs prior to purchase to make sure it's the right one for your small business. However, most programs will include the ability to check websites and downloadable files for possible viruses, giving you a warning before you accidentally expose your computer to a shady program. They also will allow you to scan for viruses currently on your computer and delete them. PC Magazine recently chose Bitdefender Antivirus Plus ($39.95), Norton Antivirus ($49.99), and Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus ($19.99) as their Editor's Choices for 2014. For the best free antivirus option, they chose Malwarebytes Anti-Malware 1.70 and AVG Antivirus, with whom BuzzAGeek has a partnership.
2. Don't Open or Run Strange Files
The good news is, a trojan (malicious software hiding inside another program) or virus can't activate if you don't open or run the file in which it's hiding. Don't click on links or download and run documents, pictures, programs, or other files sent to you by someone you don't know. If you receive a link or file from someone you do know, but there's still something suspicious about the way they sent it-- perhaps the email or instant message isn't in their usual writing style or an employee who's usually very professional is sending puppy chain-letters at work-- don't run it. Viruses are capable of reproducing themselves and spreading to other computers via fake messages like these. Instead, ask the person if they meant to send you the file or program, and check it over with your antivirus. As long as you don't open or run the infected file, you can delete it with no harm done.
3. Raise Your Browser's Security Settings
Many internet browsers come with security options that will protect or notify you when you are browsing untrustworthy sites or have downloaded a suspicious file or program. Whether you use Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, or any other number of possible browser programs, raising your browser's security settings can be the first line of defense in keeping you safe from spyware and other subtle problem-causers. Many of these browsers also include pop-up blockers, which help to keep you from unintentionally visiting untrustworthy websites.
4. Turn on a Firewall
A firewall is a network security feature that monitors incoming and outgoing data packets to a network, analyzes their content, and either accepts or rejects them based on their content. Firewall programs such as Windows Firewall, Norton Firewall (included in Norton Internet Security), and Zone Alarm Free Firewall will monitor the information being sent to and from your computer network and notify you of attempts by suspicious programs to access your computer via the internet or other foreign networks.
5. Back Up Your Computer Regularly
Should the worst happen and you find your computer too infected to function, make sure you regularly back your important files, programs, and documents up to an external hard drive. This will ensure that you not only don't lose your important files in a worst-case scenario, but can also be used to replace infected files and programs with a previous, non-infected version. It's recommended to have more than one version of the backup, in case it's necessary to go back to an even earlier version of a file. If you are unable to recover your data due to a lapsed backup or a problem with your backup hard drive, BuzzAGeek does offer data recovery services.
BuzzAGeek understands the importance of computer and internet security to small businesses, which is why we offer extensive virus protection and removal services. We can provide both preventative measures to protect your computer systems as well as repair and restoration in the event of a virus attack. If you have questions about other ways to protect yourself, we're available to help.