The term malware covers a whole range of malicious software such as Trojan horses, spyware, adware and more. Malware problems can range from annoying and inconvenient system shut-downs to the pervasive and insidious identification of personal data, such as credit card information. Over the past week I have had to clean two laptops for relatives that were infected with malware. It is not always an easy process. Sometimes I end up running 3 different products to make sure that all malicious content is gone.

Over the years, this annoying global phenomenon has continued to evolve and reach new levels of sophistication; conversely, online defense specialists are called upon to innovate and create preventative measures that strive to stamp out this plague of an issue. Below are a few such measures that you can employ to prevent malware sneaking onto your computer.

Firewalls

In simple terms, a firewall is a security system for your computer that acts as a barrier or guard between outside traffic and your internal network. It analyses any incoming traffic and determines whether it should be allowed access and is thus a vital component of any online defense structure. Most people have some form of firewall program running on their computers but it’s important to keep your firewall active and turned on at all times. A firewall can be either software or hardware. Some great home routers now have firewall capabilities built-in. Check your documentation if you are not sure. Just make sure that you use it. There’s no point in having a fire alarm if you don’t have it switched on, after all.

RECOGNIZE Spam Email/Suspicious Links

These are one of the most common access points for malware to get inside your computer. Tatiana from Russia has sent you a saucy photo, you’ve won a million dollars (just click this link to claim your prize) or your computer is in peril right now so install this great product; these are just a few of the spam-like ways that cyber-criminals will try to get you to download their sinister programs. Be suspicious, be vigilant and learn to distinguish between the genuine and the fraudulent; if you are ever unsure, err on the side of caution and ask for a second opinion. For more information on phishing emails, see my post Protecting Yourself From Phishing Emails.

CUSTOMIZE Your Browser Settings

Don’t allow your web browser to automatically open and run programs or open windows. Check your browser settings and apply restrictions to reduce the risk of malware.

Use a High-Security Cloud Storage System

One great way to keep all of your important data backed up is to store it in the cloud. However, if you store highly sensitive, confidential material in your cloud, having a strong, malware-proof defense system becomes even more imperative. One of the latest high-security products on the market has been developed by Australian company Your Digital File. Using advanced data encryption technology, the product ensures that documents can be securely stored, shared, updated and digitally signed. The user controls access to their files at all times.The service also allows for the automatic release of nominated documents,such as wills, to certain people on defined events. Data scrambling and encryption does exactly what it says: your data is scrambled/encrypted and then – almost magically – put back together when you need to access it. Access is granted only by the user’s unique login combination of password and private key; if you don’t have the right key then you can’t open the door to your data. For more information, check out this website.

Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to best safeguard your computer and online data? What nasty viruses or spam networks have you come across? Share your thoughts and stories by commenting below.