It's never fun to be on the receiving end of a hacker's intentions. Recently, I became victim to computer viruses as well. I purchased a new laptop about three months ago. I went through all the precautionary measures, i.e. installing the antivirus and spyware software first before anything else. I even paid the Geek Squad to do it.
Three short months later, my computer was acting odd. Nothing serious, just blacking out the screen here and there and running slower at times. I took it to the Geek Squad for a diagnostic screening and they found 180 viruses.
I was shocked. In such a short time, and with the support of an antivirus program, I fell victim to 180 "infections." And trust me, I wasn't surfing any suspicious sites.
I learned some things from the Geek Squad to help protect computers from viruses, and I recently received some information from CyberDefender Corporation as well. Some of this may not be news to you, but it is always worth noting.
Some tips I've learned along the way are to do clean up and defrag maintenance on your computer system regularly. Read how here. I've also heard that using Mozilla Firefox instead of Internet Explorer reduces your risk of getting a virus. Additionally, here are some tips from CyberDefender:
1. Checking the "Keep me signed in" box in public PCs
NEVER, ever, check the "keep me signed in" box when you aren't using your personal computer.
How to avoid it: Make sure to uncheck the "Keep me signed in" box on any public computers used. You should also go into the browser tools and clear the cache and cookies.
2. Failing to update Microsoft Windows OS, Java, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash (I've always heard to update the OS, but did not realize Java and Adobe were so important).
Java, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash are often exploited and may lead to malware infections. Failing to update these widely used applications can leave users vulnerable.
How to avoid it: Enable automatic updates and install them immediately.
3. Searching for celebrity gossip
Malware authors know that people naturally gravitate towards the latest celebrity gossip.
How to avoid it: When searching on Google, use https://www.google.com (notice the "s") instead of the common http://www.google.com, which will send your
search request through an encrypted SSL connection. CyberDefender has found that doing so reduces the risk of being infected from search results (aka SEO poisoning).
4. Using BitTorrent to download copyrighted software, film, TV shows
Avoid torrent sites at all costs -- even if they are safe (not malicious), some of the ads found in torrent sites can compromise your computer's security.
How to avoid it: Stick to official downloads and streams such as iTunes, Hulu/Hulu Plus, Netflix and legitimate websites. Downloading illegal software can expose your computer to trojans and spyware.
5. Opening an email attachment from someone you don't know, or clicking on a link in an email from someone you don't know
Attachments and links are the quickest way to run into malware. All it takes is one mouse click to open the doors to viruses and Trojans. When you do know the sender, be wary of links and attachments; in the event your friend's computer is infected with viruses or malware, email messages coming from that machine will carry malicious attachments and links of its own.
How to avoid it: Keep an up-to-date security suite running at all times. Never open attachments or click on links on messages sent by someone you don't know. Even if you know them, make sure the spelling, tone and style of message is legitimate before opening any attachments or clicking on links.
6. Online gaming (free to play, social games on Facebook and beyond)
Playing games online is usually safe, unless it's on an unknown website that requires users download software on their machines.
How to avoid it: Play games only on trusted websites. If trying out unknown sites, make sure security software is running.
7. Leaving Facebook privacy settings wide open
Leaving privacy settings unchecked on Facebook leaves personal information available for anyone to see. This information can include your email, birthday, phone number, and more info that can be used for identity theft.
How to avoid it: Carefully review your privacy settings on Facebook. Err on the side of caution -- don't let "friends of friends" see your personal information. Use "check in" modestly, and refrain from alerting everyone on Facebook of extended business trips, out of the country stays, or other opportunities where you may not be actively monitoring your home, bank accounts or credit report.
8. Connecting to unknown wireless networks
In public places, like airports and hotels, be careful about logging into unknown (private) wireless networks. Bad guys can eavesdrop as you use your computer, "imitating" a real, safe environment, and have full access to your computer.
How to avoid it: Be sure to log into only official wireless networks. If not 100 percent sure, go for paid access or avoid going online until you find a safe network.
9. Using the same password for every single online account
It's hard remembering different passwords, so no wonder many of us use the same one for everything. But if that one password is cracked or stolen, your entire online life is suddenly ripe for the taking.
How to avoid it: Keep different passwords.
10. Trying to get a free iPad, PlayStation 3 or similar gadgets (scams, phishing)
Giving your information to enter a contest to win supposed free prizes is the oldest trick online.
How to avoid it: Avoid any kind of giveaway that's not supported in a big way by a known brand, even if it happens to be an online brand (like Zappos, for example).
I hope these tips help protect your computer from malware, viruses, trojans, malicious attachments, and spyware that can leave your computer infected.