How important is an antivirus?

 

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. – Benjamin Franklin

The estimated cost of cybercrime various widely among researchers.  Some estimate as low as $100 billion annually, while some predict the cost being as high as $1 trillion.  That’s trillion, with a “t”.  Even if the real cost is on the low end…$100 billion isn’t chump change.

Viruses can be cleaned out. Operating systems can be reinstalled. New computers can be bought. But your data and information can be lost or worse, stolen.  If you’re a business it’s not just your personal data, but all of your customer’s data as well.  That’s why it’s more important than ever to be proactive and protected.

Could you live without your computer? Phone? Tablet?  Think about all the devices you use on a daily basis. If you’re a little more tech savvy you might even use smart watches and Bluetooth in the car.  It won’t be long before everything we have is a “smart” device or Wi-fi capable.  There was even a case recently where a hacker used a ‘smart’ fish tank to steal information from a casino…Why the fish tank needed to be a smart  device that’s connected to the network we’re unsure. Perhaps the fish like watching cat videos on YouTube as well.

The point is our society is becoming increasingly dependent on technology.  Everything is connected and our entire personal lives are stored in this magical cloud.  There are a multitude of benefits to all of this.  Society has never been more connected. It’s never been easier to keep track of all your records and documents and be able to have access to them anywhere in the world.  Technology makes our lives simpler.

But with an increasing dependence on this technology we’ve suddenly placed our trusted personal information in the hands of people we’ve never met.  Our information isn’t in a lock box we can keep tucked away in the house. It’s not in a deposit box at the bank.  It’s in our computer at home and we can transmit that data across the world right from our living room.  In an instant, we can order something and with one click have it arrive at our door two days later.

Being constantly aware of how we’re sending this information online can be tricky.  How do you know that email attachment is safe? Are you sure the websites you’re visiting are legitimate?  As time goes on, the internet grows exponentially.  More websites, more opportunities, and more crime.  Criminals are getting smarter and everyday are coming up with new ways to steal personal information.

The question then, is how can you protect yourself?

 

Knowing thy enemy

 

Most people can have a virus or some form of malware and have no idea their computer is infected.  Sure, some may throw obvious signals that something is wrong with your computer. Some more obvious signs of infection are: showing you random advertisements, annoying popups, and take you to different webpages than the one you clicked.

However, some more nefarious malware will run in the background.  You may never know that you have a virus.  Some viruses will give a criminal the ability to take control of your computer.  There is even some malware that sits quietly in the background collecting your data.  All of your usernames and passwords for banking, Facebook, and E-mail would all be stolen and you wouldn’t have any idea.  That is until you’re locked out of an account one day or notice suspicious activity on your account.

The people who design this malware are quite clever.  They will often disguise their malicious software behind something that seems legitimate or useful. Many times, it will be advertised as a browser extension or toolbar. This brings back the question: Are you sure the link you’re clicking is safe and legitimate?  A good anti-virus combined with a backup device can help bring you peace of mind.  It can be so hard to determine what and what not to do sometimes when browsing the web.

Then there is the tech buzzword of the year so far: Ransomware.  Boy, have we heard a lot about this one.  Ransomware locks, or encrypts, your files, making it impossible to access your important data and files. You might be able to unlock them, but at a high cost. It’s like someone taking all your most valued possessions and locking them away in a safe with a key that you have to pay to get. Ransomware is probably the most visible form of malware, it’s effects are immediate and obvious.  It also looks like these types of attacks will only be increasing in the near future.  Many hackers have seen the effectiveness of ransomware and are looking for more ways to exploit people.

The last thing we’ll discuss on this topic is tech support scams.  So many people have seen these and many people fall for them.  You’ll be aimlessly browsing the web and suddenly a pop up.  It states Microsoft or some other legitimate company has found a virus on your computer and you need to call them immediately.  However, Microsoft is NOT monitoring your computer. And you more than likely did not have a virus in the first place.

How can I protect myself?

 

  • Safe browsing – The #1 thing you can do to protect yourself is careful browsing. Knowing what links are suspicious, what advertisements are malware in disguise, and what type of emails you should/shouldn’t open.  Although in today’s world being careful when you browse isn’t enough.

 

  • Antivirus – Things like antivirus and antimalware can definitely help. But no antivirus is 100%. The bottom line is  – if you download and run something that turns out to be a virus, there isn’t much an antivirus can do. However, it is an important first step in defending yourself from attacks.  Antivirus will block some extremely damaging viruses and malware.

 

  • Updates – Another important step is to make sure all your software is properly updated. This includes your operating system and things such as internet browsers and Flash/Java players.  Many cybercriminals will use exploits in software as a means to infect computers with malware and other viruses.

 

  • Backup! – Back up your data! If the worst case scenario were to happen, there isn’t much anyone can do.  The only way to ensure you don’t lose important files is to have them backed up.  You could use a cloud backup or an external device you plug into your computer each night to backup.

 

Antivirus is just one part of the protection puzzle. Being careful when you browse, using an antivirus or antimalware program, staying on top of updates for all your software, and backing up your data are four very important ways you can protect yourself.

If boosting your security is something you’re interest in, check out our Managed Antivirus. On top of being an antivirus program it gives us the capability for remote support on your computer.  As long as you’re connected to the internet we can log in and help!