For Seniors: Protect Your Laptop from Malware
Malware (malicious software) such as viruses, spyware, and adware, can infect your laptop after you accidentally download it from the Internet. Malware might be downloaded after you click a link, open an infected attachment in an e-mail, or install software from the Internet without realizing that malware is attached to it.
Malware comes in various forms.
A virus can do a variety of things, but typically, it attacks your data, deleting files, scrambling data, or making changes to your system settings that cause your laptop to grind to a halt.
Spyware helps somebody track what you do with your laptop. Some spyware simply helps companies track your activities online so that they can figure out how to sell you things; other spyware is used for more insidious purposes, such as stealing your passwords.
Adware is the computer equivalent of telemarketing phone calls at dinner time. After adware is downloaded onto your laptop, you’ll get annoying pop-up windows trying to sell you things all day long. Beyond the annoyance, adware can quickly clog up your laptop. Its performance slows down, and it’s hard to get anything done at all.
Protecting against malware
There are several ways in which you can protect your laptop from malware.
Buy and install an antivirus program. It’s critical that you install an antivirus program, such as those from McAfee, Symantec, or Trend Micro, or the freely downloadable AVG Free in order to protect your laptop.
New viruses are being invented every day, so it’s also important that you update your antivirus software regularly with the latest virus definitions. Many antivirus programs are purchased by yearly subscription, which gives you access to updated virus definitions that the company constantly gathers throughout the year.
Also, be sure to run a scan of your laptop for viruses on a regular basis. For convenience, you can use settings in the antivirus software to set up automatic updates and scans.
Install a program that combines tools for detecting adware and spyware. Windows 7 has a built-in program, Windows Defender, which includes an anti-spyware feature. If you don’t have Windows 7, you can purchase programs such as Spyware Doctor from PC Tools or download free tools such as Spybot or Spyware Terminator.
Use Windows tools to keep Windows up-to-date with security features and fixes to security problems. You can also turn on a firewall, which is a feature that stops other people or programs from accessing your laptop without your permission.
Use privacy and security features of your browser, such as the SmartScreen Filter and InPrivate Browsing features in Internet Explorer 8 and 9, to protect against malware.
People who travel with their laptops face another type of security concern. When you carry your laptop with you, it is exposed to potential theft or loss of your information, some of it personal, most of it irreplaceable.