Reduce malware infections in 5 steps

Security_Nov05_AIn the past few weeks the CryptoLocker virus has spread rapidly to become one of the more well known, and dangerous, viruses of the year. Because of the fact that if your system is infected, you likely won’t be getting your files back unless you pay the ransom, you likely don’t want this to infect your work systems. One of the ways to limit the possibility of this is to educate your employees on how to minimize the chances their systems will be infected.

Here are five tips you can share with your employees about how to keep systems free from malware.

1. Don’t turn off or stop your anti-virus scanner
There is little doubt as to the usefulness of your anti-virus scanners. These are installed specifically by companies and IT departments the world over in an effort to keep systems free from viruses and malware. Because there are always new pieces of malware being developed and released, the companies that run the antivirus scanners often keep an up-to-date as possible database that is consulted when the scanner is running.

It is these databases that companies push to you in weekly, or daily updates. Therefore, it’s a good idea to not only keep your virus-scanner on, but also up-to-date, as the chances of it picking up newer and more serious malware are higher.

If your scanner attempts to run during business hours, some systems may slow down. Why not change the time this scan runs to when you aren’t at your desk, say after 5:00 pm, or early in the morning. Working with an IT partner to schedule this could really help.

An important factor to remember is: If you don’t run your anti-virus scanner, or turn off your scanner, the chances of your computers being infected increases exponentially.

2. Watch what you download
One of the more common ways malicious software makes it onto computers is through downloaded files. That Facebook toolbar that a website is advertising as a must-have, or the file that must be downloaded in order to watch a movie online may actually be teeming with viruses.

Therefore, you should only download files from websites that you know are secure and offer legitimate files. And, before you download anything ask yourself, “Do I really need this, and will I really use it?” If you are unsure, check with a colleague, or reach out to your IT partner.

3. Study email attachments closely
Another common way malicious software and viruses spread is through email attachments. Sometimes an email account has been compromised and a hacker is sending emails to users with the virus attached, or the host system has been infected and the virus is essentially sending itself. Regardless of how the email is being sent, you should be wary of all email attachments.

Before you open ANY attachment, verify that it is actually referenced in the email, it is the file referenced, and the name is logical. If you see an email that states a document or file is attached, take a look at the name of the attached file. If it ends in .exe or .dmg, this is a program and likely a virus, and should not be opened. You should also look at who is sending the email too. If you don’t know the person it is recommended that you do not open the attachment. If you are unsure, try contacting the sender in another email.

4. Avoid using shared disks when possible
While external hard drives and thumb drives may be incredibly useful, viruses can actually be spread by them. For example, if an infected file is on a USB drive and is plugged into a system, this can actually infect the system when the file is opened.

If you do use these drives, many virus scanners can check them. So, when you plug in a drive, before you open any files or the drive itself, right click on it and you should see an option to scan the drive with your virus scanner. If not, you can likely do this from the virus scanner itself. This could take time, but it will help keep your systems secure.

5. Ask yourself whether you really need to have an administrator account for Windows
On many systems, when you set up a new user, you can set an account to be the administrator of that system. Administrators automatically have the ability to install programs, change settings and even create new accounts. If you don’t need to change your computer’s settings, or install programs then you likely don’t need to have an administrator account.

This could be a great way to minimize virus infections simply because these viruses need to first be installed. If you can’t install programs or even download them, then your chances of being infected are lower.

Looking to learn more about how you can protect your computers? Contact us today as we may have the perfect solution that will not only keep your systems secure, but also free from any malicious software.

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