We have recently helped two of our IT Support clients in Hull, East Yorkshire who had been infected with viruses. The viruses had entered their computer systems and resulted in downtime – and downtime can significantly affect a business. One client had lost their main showroom PC for four days – and could have also lost all of their data stored on the computer.
One of these clients had fully managed virus protection, which goes to show that there is more to keeping your system safe from viruses than just paying for protection – there are also actions that you and your staff must take to help keep your computer infection free.
Here are our 10 tips to protect yourself from viruses:
- Install a good virus guard There are a number of anti-virus packages on the market, some of which are free and some of which are to be paid for. It is not sufficient just to rely on the built-in Windows virus checker – especially when business data is at risk.
- Install Real-time spyware protection Spyware is another form of malware (malicious software) that is similar to a virus. However whereas viruses destroy data and stop the computer from working, spyware sits silently in the background and could be allowing hackers to steal your data, passwords or commercial secrets. Real-time spyware protection runs in the background and keeps an eye out for such programs.
- Ensure virus and spyware protection is always up to date It is no good having protection if it is not up-to-date. Every day hundreds of new viruses are found in the wild, and the malicious programmers are in an escalating arms race with the anti-virus and spyware-protection companies. Don’t neglect, cancel or put off security updates.
- Schedule regular system scans on your virus protection Most virus packages can be set to automatically scan your system for infection. However it is important to make sure that it does so when the computers are actually turned on – make sure that scans are run at a quiet time, or manually run a scan at a quiet time at least every week.
- Ensure emails are virus scanned at your mail server Your IT company can set up your email system to scan emails for viruses at the server. This means that if there is a malicious attachment in an email it will be removed before the email ever hits your own system.
- Do not open attachments you are not expecting If you are not expecting an attachment – no matter how tempting the title may be – do not open it. Many virus infections are as a result of people clicking links or attachments sent in unsolicited emails – usually purporting to contain celebrity gossip or making other salacious promises.
- Don’t follow links if you don’t know where they go to It sounds obvious, but the content of links can be masked and not all links to internet sites go where they say. Be particularly wary of links that are hidden behind images, or that have alternative text. If you get an email purporting to be from your bank, or PayPal, or HMRC the safest approach is to open a web browser, go to their website by typing the address and access it that way.
- Don’t trust the ‘From’ address in an email – this can be easily spoofed It is incredibly easy to change the ‘From’ field on an email to make it look like it came from an address you trust. Always be wary, and if anything looks wrong, seek assistance.
- Never run your Windows PC with Administrator rights A lot of PCs are permanently logged in as ‘Administrator’ which means that software can be installed and run (even without your consent) and system data altered without the need to enter a password. This is a huge security risk. You should always conduct day-to-day business under a ‘user’ account.
- Enable a firewall You may have seen a notification icon saying you have a firewall, but for the best protection you should invest in a good quality business grade router, or hardware firewall, which will keep malicious eyes off your systems, and prevent spyware from reporting back to its masters.
You and your staff have to take responsibility for keeping your systems secure – and we can provide training if you need it on how to keep virus free. Although this is by no means a complete security plan, your staff should all be aware of these basics and understand why the rules are in place.
If you need more advice or training on how to keep your business data safe from viruses, or if you have been infected with a virus and don’t know what to do, we can help: