Malware is a widespread concern that costs consumers more than $2 billion and compromises millions of personal computers annually. It's a threat that evolves as quickly as our measures to remedy it.
Hackers crack your passwords. Scammers dupe you into clicking malicious links. But those aren't the only -- or even most common -- ways your computer can be infected. The fact is, the software you use every day is likely out of date, leaving it vulnerable to security breaches. Unpatched software is one of the most popular ways for malware to gain entry to your PC.
Reacting to Threats Isn't Enough
The customary way to deal with a threat is to rely on an antivirus program to identify infections. You regularly scan your machine and quarantine and eradicate any viruses that are uncovered. Some malware will inevitably squeeze through even the tightest security, so scans are an important part of any defense. But traditional antivirus programs also have some unfortunate drawbacks.
You know the drill: set your program to "scan" and find something else to do for the next 30-120 minutes. You'll breathe a sigh of relief when your computer is scrubbed clean, but in the meantime you're completely tied up.
Even when you're not actively removing malware, traditional antivirus programs can suck up your time and resources, with intrusive pop-up warnings and bloated code that slow down both you and your computer. Isn't reducing interruptions to your productivity the whole point of battling malware?
The Path to Prevention
If you really want to slam the door on malware, you need to move from a reactive to a preventative approach. You can start making these best practices habit:
- Install a good antivirus product with a firewall.
- Limit the number of Administrator accounts.
- Keep your laptops and mobile devices physically secure.
- Delete any unsolicited emails (especially those containing attachments or links) without opening them.
- Be wary of an email requesting personal information such as a password or social security number.
- Always use strong passwords, and never share them.
- Don't click on random links.
- Don't download unfamiliar software off the internet.
- Don't propagate virus hoaxes or chain mail.
- Log out of or lock your computer.
- Be cautious when allowing remote access to your computer.
- Frequently back up important documents and files.
- Deploy encryption whenever it is available.
- Take a training course in computer security.
- Lastly, and most importantly, always keep your software up to date!.
Patching the Vulnerabilities
Even if you follow all of the other above practices to the letter, if you aren't patching the holes in your software, you're leaving your PC wide open to infection. A typical unpatched machine is exposed to 30-50 new security vulnerabilities each month.
Major companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Firefox, and others recognize thousands of vulnerabilities each year and release patches to update them. These updates are released on different schedules, in different quantities. Seeking out and downloading updates from each vendor individually is a time-consuming routine that just isn't practical for most people. Thankfully, there's another way.
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