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Part 4 of 4: Protecting Yourself

1.   Install an antivirus program. An antivirus program will actively protect your computer from virus infections by scanning active programs and performing scheduled full-system scans. There are free antivirus programs that come with basic virus protection, such as Avast, and there are paid programs that come with other internet security protections such as firewalls and anti-phishing measures.  You should only have one antivirus installed at a time in order to avoid conflicts between them.  Make sure that your antivirus gets updated at least every week.  Scan your computer at least weekly, more often if you are heavy internet user.  An antivirus program is not a foolproof system, and should not replace good browsing habits and common sense.

2.   Install an anti-spyware program. Beyond viruses, your computer can also get infected with spyware and adware. These programs are difficult to exterminate and often hijack your browsing experience. They also make your computer more susceptible to future infection. Most antivirus programs do not scan for or remove spyware and adware.  A Popular program is Malwarebytes.

3.   Enable a firewall. Firewall software protects your networks ports, which are the "doors" facing the internet that allow data to be sent back and forth. Windows comes with firewall software already installed and enabled, which is usually more than enough for most home users. There are a variety of companies that offer more powerful and customizable software as well. Most of these are the same companies that provide paid antivirus software.  You can only have one firewall enabled at a time. If you install a different firewall, you'll need to disable the Windows firewall.

4.   Keep Windows updated. Many viruses and other malicious programs exploit holes in the Windows software. These holes are quickly patched by Microsoft, and updates are made available for all legitimate copies of Windows. if you don't keep your copy of Windows updated, your system will be much more exposed. In order to ensure that you're always protected, make sure that Windows is set to update automatically.  If you are using Windows XP, upgrade immediately. Support for Windows XP ended on April 8, 2014. This means that any exploitable cracks found after that date will no longer be fixed, and Windows XP will become very insecure.

5.   Be careful with USB drives. USB drives are a popular vehicle for virus transmissions, usually without the owner being aware at all. You could get an infection just by inserting the USB drive, or could get your USB drive infected by plugging it into a public computer. Try to use other methods for file sharing, such as online storage or email to send files.

6.   Be wary about remote access. In our more connected world, remote access and remote sharing of resources has become much more prevalent. While this can be great for productivity, it does put your personal machine at more risk if there are a variety of other machines connecting directly to it. Ask yourself if you need that remote connection, and always ensure that your protection software is up to date.

7.   Keep a good backup. If disaster strikes, you don't want to be left without your important data. A regular backup schedule will mitigate any damage done by a virus, and will allow you to get up and running much quicker. There are a variety of ways that you can go about backing up your data, both locally and remotely.

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