How to protect your computer from viruses, spyware, rootkits, trojans, keyloggers, hijackers and other malware?

When a computer is connected to the internet, it is exposed to a large number of on-line threats – they can be in any form, for example: Viruses, Spywares, Malwares, Trojans, Adwares, Dialers, and Rootkits etc. The only way to protect your computer from these on-line threats is to – well, firstly make sure your Operating System (Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 etc.) is properly updated with the most recent software and security updates.

Then, get yourself a valid anti-virus and anti-spyware program. You will have to pay for some of them but many of them are also available for free. So go for the free ones if you do not wish to pay but you need to make sure that you have at least and only ONE proper anti-virus and anti-spyware program in your computer and that they are properly updated.

If you are using a licensed copy of Windows Operating System (Windows XP and above) make sure that you have turned on “Automatic Updates” in your computer and then download and install Microsoft Security Essentials. It is a free anti-virus and anti-spyware from Microsoft and works pretty well. But now that Microsoft has ended support for Windows XP, go ahead and upgrade your Operating System to the latest Windows 10 or whichever your current hardware can take. Do not hesitate to upgrade your hardware as well, if you have to. Your data is more important than a small, one-time expense you might have to incur while upgrading your computer.

But you can still get Microsoft Security Essentials if your computer is running on Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. From Windows 10 onwards,  Microsoft Security Essentials is integrated with Windows Defender. So, if you have a Windows 10 computer, just make sure that you have automatic updates and Windows Defender turned on. That’s pretty much all it takes to keep your computer safe.

Also a few other things you might want to keep in mind – do not open blank emails (with or without attachments) from unknown senders. It could be some kind of virus or malware.  Exercise caution while browsing, downloading stuff and/or clicking on on-line ads. Better stick to known and safe websites. Do not download anything from any website if you are not 100% sure it’s absolutely safe. If you get an email from someone you don’t know telling you about something vague – better delete it immediately – especially if it’s telling you to open an attachment.

Let’s take a look at these definitions very quickly:

 Spyware: It is a piece of software that obtains information about you from your computer without your permission. These programs are capable of collecting many types of information like your browsing habits, personal information about yourself and whatever else it is programmed to and it sends this information to different people.

Malware: Anything other than Viruses can be called Malware – these are Malicious software which are designed to operate in your computer without your knowledge/permission.

Trojans (Trojan Horses):– These are software programs that appear to do something legitimate but in fact carry out a different and most often Malicious function.

Dialers: These are programs that dial out to premium numbers, using your dial-up or ISDN connection, without your permission (or knowledge).

Viruses: We’ve heard this many times before – a computer virus is a program that is designed to replicate itself (make copies of itself) in your computer without your knowledge. After it replicates itself it carries out harmful activities in your computer which could result in damage to applications in your computer or even the Operating system itself. It also ‘infects’ other computers if you share removable media like floppy disks, Pen drives etc.

Rootkits: These are software that hide their presence from the infected computers administrators and anti-virus/anti-spyware software and provide administrator access to themselves. Rootkits can be anything – spyware, adware, viruses, trojans etc. and can be designed to alter your computers system and/or log files, monitor keystrokes and network traffic. Rootkits have their origins in Unix computers but are now prevalent in Windows computers as well.

Also remember to Turn On the Firewall in your Computer.

So, let’s get back to the original question – How do you protect yourself from all these Viruses/Spyware and Malware?

To answer that, let me provide you with a few links from where you can get some free applications that would help protect your computer:

How to protect your computer From Microsoft
Free AVG Free anti-virus & anti-spyware
Free Avast! Free anti-virus & anti-spyware
Spybot (Search & Destroy) Free anti-virus
MalwareBytes Free anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware
SuperAntiSpyware Detects and removes spyware, adware, trojans, rootkits, dialers, worms, keyloggers, hijackers, parasites and other rogue security products and malware
Trojan Remover Trojan Remover not only detects Malware files but automatically removes them, without the need to use DOS or SAFE mode
HitMan Pro Hitman Pro is a second opinion scanner, designed to rescue your computer from malware (viruses, trojans, rootkits, etc.) that have infected your computer despite all the security measures you have taken (such as anti virus software, firewalls, etc.).
CCleaner Cleans and speeds up your computer
Rootkit Revealer  V 1.71 From Microsoft Technet
Aries Rootkit Remover Lavasoft’s ARIES Rootkit Remover is a reliable, stand-alone tool.
Advanced System Care Advanced SystemCare Free has a one-click approach to help protect, repair, clean and optimize your PC for free.
Norton Anti-Virus They offer a 30 day trial of their products
Microsoft Security Essentials Free anti-virus and anti-spyware application from Microsoft. It can only be used on computers running a properly licensed copy of Windows XP, Vista or 7
McAfee Anti-virus They offer a 30 day trial of their anti-virus and internet-security product.

For your computer to be reasonably secure (there is no such thing as 100% secure when you are connected to the internet) make sure you have a good (fully working, fully updated) anti-virus and anti-spyware program. It’s always much safer that you have licensed copy of Windows. Windows XP is outdated and obsolete but you can still use it if you have a good anti-virus program that is compatible with it. Better still, upgrade to the latest version of Windows, Windows 10 and take advantage of it’s enhanced performance and security features.

If you are using free versions of anti-virus programs, it could take you a few attempts before you are able to choose one that best suits your requirements.

But do not overdo it – you don’t have to download and install every free or paid anti-virus or anti-spyware application (as some folks often do). It will only result in slowing down and finally crashing your computer! Talk to your friends, check out the on-line forums and then download and install just one anti-virus and one anti-spyware application.

Good (safe) browsing habits, using a licensed copy of Windows and keeping your computer updated with the latest software & security updates and virus definitions are the three things that will save you hundreds of dollars in expenses and a lot of headache that comes with it!

One last thing- always keep a backup of all your data. Use an external hard-disk, pen drive or a disc – but backup regularly. You never know when you might need it!