Malware and spyware are common threats that you should never take lightly. Considering that you likely use your PC for conducting work, banking, shopping, and even staying in touch with your physician, your device stores a wealth of personal, sensitive information. Any random piece of over a billion malware programs can quickly spell trouble if you don’t keep it protected.
The good news is that it doesn’t take much to improve the security of your PC and other internet-connected devices. You just need the right tools for the job.
Look at some of the fundamental tools that protect you against malware and spying.
Spyware comes in all shapes and sizes. Tracking cookies follow you around the web, recording your behavior, and taking note of every site you visit. Adware monitors your online activity and serves you with seemingly personalized ads.
Keyloggers collect your keystrokes and can expose an abundance of personal information, going so far as to reveal your passwords and credentials.
The only way to stay protected from spyware is by using anti-spyware software. Most commonly, it will be pre-installed with your operating system or could come bundled with your antivirus program. However, you might need to upgrade to a paid antivirus subscription to get it.
Speaking of antivirus, you should never do anything on your internet-connected devices without it. The fundamental layer of protection shields you from the most common malware and spyware attacks you encounter daily.
Depending on the type, a computer virus can compromise and destroy your data, slow down your systems, monitor your activity, etc. You need to keep your antivirus always running in the background if you want it to detect malware quickly and protect your data.
Unfortunately, far too many internet users believe antivirus and firewalls are interchangeable, thinking that if they have one, they don’t need the other. However, you need both.
An antivirus is an application that detects, identifies, and removes malicious files. A firewall on PC is a combination of software and hardware that acts as a barrier between your network and the world wide web.
It monitors inbound and outbound traffic, preventing unwanted access to your network.
If you have a Windows PC, you likely already have a pre-installed firewall that keeps you protected. Macs also have built-in firewalls, but you’ll have to enable them manually.
Virtual Private Network
If you want the utmost protection against spying, the only way to ensure that there are no prying eyes monitoring your activity is with a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A PC VPN allows you to establish a private, secure connection between your device and the internet. Essentially, it builds an encrypted tunnel that allows all data to travel through anonymously, without anyone seeing it. Even your internet service provider (ISP) wouldn’t be able to monitor your activity with your VPN turned on.
While a VPN can certainly be beneficial when connected to your home or office network, it’s indispensable when you’re using public Wi-Fi or networks with freely available passwords.
Not necessarily a “tool,” software updates are still critical if you want to stay protected against spyware and other types of malware infections. Whether we’re talking about random video games, your go-to image editing software, antivirus and firewall programs, or your OS, you’ll always want to ensure the latest version is installed.
If you’re using an older version of a program with a known vulnerability, you’ll be a much easier target for malware, spyware, and hackers.
Software updates frequently come with advanced security patches and bug fixes that could help you protect your data. Moreover, antivirus and firewall updates come with new threat definitions to ensure that you have the highest layer of protection possible.
Finally, no tool will be able to keep you protected if you don’t use common sense while online. It doesn’t matter if you’re using the best antivirus or spending thousands of dollars on the most advanced firewall – if you keep engaging in risky behaviors online, you will harm your privacy and security.
To stay safe, make sure that you always download new pieces of software through verified channels and platforms – avoid third-party sites and pirated copies. Don’t open random links you receive in your email, don’t leave credit cards and sensitive information on suspicious websites, and never click on shady pop-ups that appear in the corner of your screen.
Nothing can help you stay protected against spyware and malware if you frequently engage in risky behaviors.
Protecting your data with over a billion different malware and spyware programs should be your utmost priority whenever you use your PC. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to enhance your security. With the help of antivirus and anti-spyware software, an advanced firewall, a reliable VPN, regular software updates, and some common sense, you can ensure that your data is always protected.
Mike Hostetler is an Entrepreneur & Technologist currently working to help technical teams grow and thrive. Mike formerly founded appendTo, a boutique consultancy born out of the jQuery project. He is an active OSS supporter and currently serves as CEO & Publisher of ModernWeb.com. Mike is passionate about Remote Work, the Future of Work, Leadership and helping others succeed.