How to Avoid Malware and Viruses (Official Dell Tech Support)
How to Avoid Getting a Virus Through Email
As the internet has grown and evolved, so has its capacity for danger. Since practically everybody has an email address now, accidentally downloading a virus can be as easy as opening a single message or clicking one wayward link. While you can't plan for every scenario, basic internet safety and the use of antivirus software will help your computer avoid getting a virus or malware.
Using Basic Internet Safety
Research common virus delivery methods.More often than not, simply knowing what you shouldn't open from the start will afford you a huge amount of protection; since the virus and malware industry is constantly changing and adapting to users' awareness, it pays to take a look at current delivery methods.
Never respond to email hoaxes.Some examples of common email hoaxes include people asking you for personal information so that they can give you money, links from strangers to funny or engaging media, and invitations to take advantage of discounts on adult entertainment or enhancement. Simply opening any one of these types of email can infect your computer, so if it seems suspicious, just delete it.
Double-check suspicious information.If you receive an email from an antivirus program telling you your computer has been infected, make sure you verify the information through your antivirus software before opening the email; these programs are less likely to correspond through email than interface messages.
Turn on email previews.Since content previews give you a glimpse of the content in the email--minimizing your need to click on the email to ascertain its subject matter--you might benefit from turning on text previews in your chosen email service.
Find a reputable email client.Any modern, well-maintained email service such as Gmail or Outlook is a good starting place, and you can further customize your email service's security settings once you establish your account. As a general rule, you shouldn't use ad-heavy email services such as Yahoo.
- If you're using an email service that allows it, consider loading your emails in plain text. This reduces the chances that a virus can proliferate your computer through visual media to virtually zero.
Don't give out your email address to unsecured websites.You should refrain from entering your email address into any site that isn't encrypted; even if the site holds up, viruses and malware can still snag your address, making it easy for them to send a fake email with a virus your way.
Don't open emails from unknown recipients.If an email in your inbox doesn't have a known recipient or a relevant subject, send it to the trash without opening it. Similarly, anything from a site or a service that you don't use or subscribe to should go.
- In the event that you do open an email from an unknown source, don't download or click on anything in the email, especially not without scanning the contents first with an antivirus program.
Avoid clicking on suspicious links.Links, in particular, can place you at great risk for contracting a computer virus. Unless you're absolutely certain of the validity of an email, refrain from clicking on any links from within the message. The same goes for any link in your browser, especially when they appear to be placed out of context.
Use a secure browser.Again, modern and well-maintained sites that correlate with your email client are your best options--for example, you might use Google Chrome with Gmail or Microsoft Edge with Outlook. Not only will this synchronization vastly improve your browsing experience, you'll seal up any potential loopholes from incompatible plug-ins or software.
Update your browser often.Don't neglect plug-in or entire browser updates as they come; doing so will significantly raise your susceptibility to viruses. Instead, update your browser and relevant software as often as you can.
Clear your history and your cookies.Cookies are small bits of information your browser saves for the purpose of loading up commonly-used webpages quickly, but they can also be easily intercepted and used to access your email address. Disabling cookies--or simply clearing them often--will minimize this risk.
Use your best judgement.While you can't possibly hope to prepare for every feasible virus attack, simply taking a moment to think about suspicious or unprecedented emails and practicing good internet safety etiquette should be more than sufficient.
Installing Antivirus and Anti-Malware Programs
Research your options.Despite your best efforts, you always run the risk of contracting a computer virus, which means you should have a contingency plan--in this case, an antivirus program. Taking into account your browser and your email provider, whether or not you're willing to pay for a premium antivirus suite, and your operating system, search for exceptional antivirus and anti-malware software.
- Generally speaking, AVG, Norton Antivirus, and McAfee are all excellent choices due to their full functionality as free versions--though their paid renditions are more than worth the price tags.
Find dedicated antivirus and anti-malware programs.While antivirus software often comes with a web-related portion, your best protection will come from a dedicated client. Similarly, using one of the aforementioned programs as a predominately offline-based clean-up service will both speed up your computer's processing and increase your protection in the event of an attack.
- Malwarebytes and Bitdefender Plus both come highly-recommended as anti-malware suites, and both boast free options if you're on a tight budget.
- Although freeware is attractive, you'll often receive software that is a year or two behind the curve. While this doesn't necessarily render it defunct, it does mean that spending the money for an antivirus suite is worth the cost if you have particularly sensitive or valuable information in your system.
Search for browser plug-in options.What better place to have your antivirus software than right in your browser? While online extensions of services such as AVG can prove obtrusive in the long run, the ability to scan links, attachments, and entire websites for malware before you even finish loading a page is an invaluable asset if your computer can handle it.
Download from reputable sources.You should never download your antivirus software from anywhere but the service's official website. Places like CNET or File Planet that cater to third-party downloads can't necessarily be trusted when downloading antivirus software, since these downloads are the perfect opportunities for viruses to masquerade as benign.
- This is another great reason to install a plug-in in your browser: scanning the site from which you intend to download antivirus software is a great way to ensure your computer's safety.
Help your antivirus out.While you can more or less depend on your antivirus suite to take care of anything that slips through the cracks, you can make life even easier by practicing decent internet etiquette and not clicking on links, emails, or files with which you aren't familiar.
QuestionHow do you install plugin on a browser?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSearch for the plugin you want, then click "install." After this step, if you need to take any further action, the plugin installer will tell you.Thanks!
- While paid email services such as Comcast are generally regarded as secure, you should treat these sites the way you would treat any free email site.
- Antivirus software will make your computer run marginally slower than it normally would; you can turn off auto-update to counter this, though you'll have to diligently update manually.
- Refrain from forwarding email unless you've opened and confirmed the contents.
- Be very careful on ad- or flash-heavy websites--sites such as these are easy for malware to infiltrate.
- Email services and social media emails will never ask for your password, so don't provide it if asked.
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