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Malware Is No Joke: Here’s How to Protect Yourself

Malware can really ruin your day. It can devastate your finances, torpedo your reputation, and even put a crimp in your career. It can take a long time to clean up the aftermath, and you might never recover entirely.

The last thing you need is to learn your lesson about cyber security the hard way. You may not always be able to fend off every virus or spot every phishing attempt, it’s true. But by taking the time to put up defenses, you can significantly lower your chances of having to clean up your credit report after an identity theft, change all your passwords, explain those photographs to your great uncle, or worse.

Install Your Software Updates Promptly

Don’t be the person that perennially puts off installing software updates. Sure, it’s a pain, but it can improve your system performance and it also protects against known security flaws in your operating system or firmware. If nothing else, you need the security patches that software updates typically contain, because those will be meant to fix flaws that are well-known and usually are already being exploited. It’s not worth it just to save a few minutes once in a while.

Use an Antivirus Program

Using a max security antivirus is still one of the best things you can do to protect your devices from malware. While free antivirus programs are still widely available and can provide basic protection, there’s value in upgrading to a paid version. You’ll get a lot more features and functionality in an easier-to-use interface. In addition to two-way firewall protection and malware scanning, you’ll get features like parental controls, password management, transaction security, and credit monitoring that can be invaluable.

Practice Good Password Hygiene

Poor password hygiene is using the same password for every one of your accounts. Is the password you use for every account “password”? If so, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and get a password manager immediately.

As mentioned above, most paid antivirus programs offer a password management feature that stores your passwords in a “vault” that you can access using a single, master password. Once in, you can copy and paste the login credentials for your accounts as needed. And when it’s time to change a password, you can instantly generate a random string of characters, numerals, and letters, so it’ll be easy to use unique passwords and hard for hackers to guess your passwords.

Read Emails Critically

Whenever you receive an email from someone you don’t know, or from an organization (like a retailer, a school, or the French Foreign Legion), you should be suspicious. Why are you receiving this email? It might be just trying to sell you something, or let you know that your kid needs to bring an item for show-and-tell next Monday. Or it might be a phishing attempt.

It’s generally a good idea to avoid giving out sensitive information to people who have emailed you asking for it, even if they appear to be communicating with you legitimately on behalf of an organization with whom you do business. Check out details like the sender’s email address or the spelling and grammar of the message to determine whether an offer or request you receive via email is legit. If you’re worried that you really do need to login to your account, do so by opening a browser window and typing the URL into the address bar. That way you’ll be sure you’re going to the legitimate site and not a mirror site.

Configure Your Router Settings

Find the default username and password for your router’s admin dashboard, login to it, and turn up your Wifi Protected Access (WPA) settings to WPA3. Sound intimidating? You should be able to find your default credentials with a simple web search. You should be able to simply search up lists of default passwords for your make and model of router. They’re also printed in the paperwork your device came with and on the device itself. While you’re in there, change the default password so that others can’t hack into your router after five minutes of googling.

Malware can be an expensive misfortune indeed, and scams are getting bolder and more sophisticated. Don’t give scammers a chance to pull one over on you — make the first move and prevent cyber attacks before they occur.

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