Common sense, safe computing and safe surfing habits is essential to protecting yourself from malware infection. No amount of security software is going to defend against today's sophisticated malware writers for those who do not practice these principles and stay informed. Knowledge and the ability to use it is the best defensive tool anyone could have. This includes educating yourself as to the most common ways malware is contracted and spread as well as prevention.
Important Tip: Always remember that security begins with personal responsibility.
Tips to protect yourself against malware infection:
Keep Windows and Internet Explorer current with all security updates from Microsoft which will patch many of the security holes through which attackers can gain access to your computer. When necessary, Microsoft releases security updates on the second Tuesday of each month and publishes Security update bulletins to announce and describe the update. If you're not sure how to install updates, please refer to Updating your computer. Microsoft also recommends Internet 6 and 7 users to upgrade their browsers due to security vulnerabilities which can be exploited by hackers.
Avoid gaming sites, porn sites, pirated software (warez), cracking tools, and keygens. They are a security risk which can make your computer susceptible to a smörgåsbord of malware infections, remote attacks, exposure of personal information, and identity theft. In some instances an infection may cause so much damage to your system that recovery is not possible and the only option is to wipe your drive, reformat and reinstall the OS.
Avoid peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing programs (i.e. Limewire, eMule, Kontiki, BitTorrent, BitComet, uTorrent, BitLord, BearShare). They too are a security risk which can make your computer susceptible to malware infections. File sharing networks are thoroughly infected and infested with malware according to Senior Virus Analyst, Norman ASA. Malicious worms, backdoor Trojans IRCBots, and rootkits spread across P2P file sharing networks, gaming, porn and underground sites. Users visiting such pages may see innocuous-looking banner ads containing code which can trigger pop-up ads and malicious Flash ads that install viruses, Trojans, and spyware. Ads are a target for hackers because they offer a stealthy way to distribute malware to a wide range of Internet users. The best way to reduce the risk of infection is to avoid these types of web sites and not use any P2P applications.
- Risks of File-Sharing Technology
- Beware of Rogue Security software as they are one of the most common sources of malware infection. They infect machines by using social engineering and scams to trick a user into spending money to buy a an application which claims to remove malware. For more specific information on how these types of rogue programs install themselves and spread infections, read How Malware Spreads - How did I get infected.
Keeping Autorun enabled on flash drives has become a significant security risk as they are one of the most common infection vectors for malware which can transfer the infection to your computer. One in every eight malware attacks occurs via a USB device. Many security experts recommend you disable Autorun as a method of prevention. Microsoft recommends doing the same.
- Microsoft Security Advisory (967940): Update for Windows Autorun
- Microsoft Article ID: 971029: Update to the AutoPlay functionality in Windows
Always update vulnerable software like browsers, Adobe Reader and Java Runtime Environment (JRE) with the latest security patches. Older versions of these programs have vulnerabilities that malicious sites can use to exploit and infect your system.
- Time to Update Your Adobe Reader
- Adobe Security bulletins and advisories
- Microsoft: Unprecedented Wave of Java Exploitation
- eight out of every 10 Web browsers are vulnerable to attack by exploits
Don't disable UAC in Vista or Windows 7 and use Limited User Accounts in Windows XP.
Don't forget to Back up your important data and files on a regular basis. Some infections may render your computer unbootable during or before the disinfection process. Even if you're computer is not infected, backing up is part of best practices in the event of hardware or system failure related to other causes.disk image with an imaging tool (i.e. Acronis True Image, Drive Image, Ghost, Macrium Reflect, etc.). Disk Imaging allows you to take a complete snapshot (image) of your hard disk which can be used for system recovery in case of a hard disk disaster or malware resistant to disinfection. The image is an exact, byte-by-byte copy of an entire hard drive (partition or logical disk) which can be used to restore your system at a later time to the exact same state the system was when you imaged the disk or partition. Essentially, it will restore the computer to the state it was in when the image was made.
By now everyone should be familiar with Email scams and how to avoid them but also be aware of Phone Scamming.
Microsoft Survey & Advice on Phone Scamming
The scam works by criminals posing as computer security engineers and calling people at home to tell them they are at risk of a computer security threat. The scammers tell their victims they are providing free security checks and add authenticity by claiming to represent legitimate companies and using telephone directories to refer to their victims by name.
Once they have tricked their victims into believing they have a problem and that the caller can help, the scammers are believed to run through a range of deception techniques designed to steal money.
Microsoft Advice on Phone Scamming for UK Citizens
Security Resources from Microsoft:
- Threats and Countermeasures: Security Settings in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista
- Microsoft Solutions for Security: The Antivirus Defense-in-Depth Guide
- Other Security Resources:
- Hardening Windows Security - Part 1 & Part 2
- How to Stop 11 Hidden Security Threats
- Browser Security Resources:
- Configuring Internet Explorer for Practical Security and Privacy
- How to Secure Your Web Browser
- Safe Web practices - How to remain safe on the Internet
- Use Task Manager to close pop-up messages to safely exit malware attacks
- Securing Privacy Part 1: Hardware Issues
- Securing Privacy Part 2: Software Issues
- Securing Privacy Part 3: E-mail Issues
- Securing Privacy Part 4: Internet Issues
Other topics discussed in this thread:
Choosing an Anti-Virus Program
Replacing your Anti-virus - Why should you use Antivirus software?
Choosing a Firewall
Supplementing your Anti-Virus Program with Anti-Malware Tools
Glossary of Malware Related Terms
Why you should not use Registry Cleaners and Optimization Tools
I have been hacked...What should I do?