Tips For Keeping Your PC Safe Online

This article details some simple, yet essential tips to help you stay safe and secure when connected to the internet.

Keep Your Operating System and Antivirus Software up to Date

The threats of computer viruses and other forms of malware are always present. Not only is there a never-ending stream of cybercriminals who are looking to cause damage, or steal identities, but also with most computers attached to the Internet 24-7, the ease in which cybercriminals can perpetrate their crimes has gotten easier.

There are two proactive steps that computer users can take that can help make sure they prevent the latest attacks that these cybercriminals can dream of.

By keeping operating system and antivirus software up to date, people can make sure their computers are as secure as possible.

Operating system patches

All computers require operating system (OS) software in order to work. It is the base software that manages the hardware and allows a user to interact with the computer.

The most popular operating system in the world is the Microsoft Windows system, which is designed to run on PCs. Two other popular operating systems for PCs are Unix and Linux. Apple computers use the Mac OS operating system.

Every few years, the companies that produce these programs will produce new versions of their software. The main purpose of these new versions is to install the latest technical advances, which can upgrade a computer's performance and give its users more and better features. (Some people may suggest that it's just a way for computer companies to make more money, but anyone who can remember Windows 3.1 and has used Windows 7 knows how much advancement has been made in operating system software.)

Aside from features updates, each successive operating system version contains all of the corrections from the previous versions. These are usually corrections that have sealed up vulnerabilities in the operating system. Vulnerabilities are the small "errors" in an operating system that can allow an intrusion into the computer, such as a computer virus.

In between the new versions, software companies release patches and updates, especially when they become aware of specific vulnerabilities. Larger corrections are called updates, while smaller corrections are called patches.

Software companies realize that not every computer user has the ability to upgrade to the latest operating system every time one is released. For this reason, software companies will continue to provide updates for previous updates, to a point. For example, Microsoft currently provides patches and updates dating back to its older Windows versions, and not just the current Windows 7.

Keeping operating systems updated and patched with the latest security measures will help keep a computer safe from the latest threats.

Antivirus software updates

The same is true for keeping antivirus software up to date. Antivirus software helps keep a computer protected from the latest threats, including viruses, worms, and spyware.

However, cybercriminals are always working to try to stay one step ahead of antivirus software manufacturers. But with new advances in antivirus software, these programs can nearly keep up with the attacks, and sometimes, even prevent malicious attack from happening before the vulnerability is detected.

Another reason to keep antivirus software updated is to make sure it stays updated along with the operating system in use by a computer. Antivirus companies make sure their products work in conjunction with the latest updates from operating system software companies.

The best way to keep antivirus software up to date is to make sure to buy a reputable, subscription-based program. Doing this will not only keep give a computer the latest version of antivirus software, but also just like an operating system, it will keep the latest patches and updates of the antivirus software on the computer.

Other ways to stay safe

A person can have the most advanced operating system and the most expensive antivirus software installed on their computer, all completely updated, but that does not mean their computer will ever be 100% protected.

Sometimes, computer users will unwittingly invite malware onto their computer, even if their computer is protected to the nth degree. Cybercriminals rely on this social engineering to commit their crimes.

It's important to not fall prey to the many tricks cybercriminals use to circumvent operating system and antivirus updates. They use tricks such as Trojan horses, or programs that mask as beneficial or desired programs (and may even operate as advertised), but then also deposits malware onto a computer once the original program is executed. This can be in the form of a game that also inserts data tracking onto the computer, or a chain e-mail with an attachment that deposits a virus when the file opens. Phishing is another way of luring people into web sites designed to still information like account numbers and passwords while they pretend being an official web site of a bank or other legitimate organization.

It's important for all users of a computer to understand the tricks that cybercriminals use to implant malware onto a computer. Before software updates even have a chance to begin, use practices such as never opening (or passing on) a chain e-mail, or opening an attachment or a link in an instant message.

Doing this, combined with having the latest antivirus and operating system updates, will help keep computers protected from the latest threats from outside attacks.

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