If you took your computer out of the box and started using it almost instantly, then chances are your files and data are not as secure as they could to be. Even if you’ve installed a free antivirus program like AVG, you still may not be as protected as you believe. Your personal documents, photographs and even your bank account information could be open to attack if you are not taking specific measures to secure your computer.
Before talking about security measures, you should understand the various threats and why you need to protect against each one.
Most people are familiar with the idea of a computer virus. This is a program that replicates itself, like a human virus, and infects other computers. Many viruses harm a computer and then replicate onto other computers they come in contact with, harming those computers. A mild virus might be only an inconvenience. A serious virus could destroy all the data on a computer’s hard drive.\
Malware is less well-known than viruses but this malicious software is no less dangerous. Sometimes disguised as genuine or useful software, malware sneaks onto the computer and infects the internal systems in various ways.
Spyware is a particularly vicious type of malware which collects information about a computer’s users, possibly including passwords and personally identifying information, and transmits that data back to the spyware program’s creator.
Rootkits are malware programs that hide malware from antivirus and antimalware programs, while giving the rootkit’s creator privileged access to the computer.
Everyone knows what email spam is. You may not realize, however, that malware can infect your computer and use it to send out spam without your knowledge. This may cause your email to be blacklisted by Internet service providers, and at the very least is disruptive and bothersome.
You need three things to amply protect your computer from these threats.
First, you should invest in a quality antivirus program and update the virus definitions every time the program prompts you to do so. This is critically important. You must run antivirus software at all times and never disable it for any reason. You must also keep your virus software updated. You may be tempted to use a free antivirus program, but the protection and security of your computer are worth the investment in a full antivirus solution.
Second, you should have antimalware software. Again, you should purchase the best software available. The cost may seem unnecessary to you now, but if you are infected by spyware or a rootkit, you will regret using free antimalware software. While the free software is often good, a full professional antimalware protection program is always better.
Third, you should buy insurance on your computer. This may seem frivolous, but think about how much of your life and personal information is stored on that computer. What would you do if your hard drive was damaged beyond use by malware? Would you have the means to send the hard drive to a data recovery firm, or would you be stuck with the loss of all of your data?
If you find it hard to justify the expense of computer security and insurance, to yourself or your spouse or partner, consider the expense and aggravation you would incur if the worst were to happen. Also consider the other protection and insurance you have invested in, such as locks for your doors, health and life insurance and products like home security systems or car alarms. Are your computer and its contents any less valuable to you than those other secured items?