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6 tips to avoid getting a virus on your devices from the internet

Whether it’s a virus, worm, trojan, malware, ransomware, or anything in-between, one thing is clear: It’s not something you want on your PC or Mac.

If you browse the internet, it’s a good idea to think about antivirus protection. Viruses can infect your devices with malware which can then steal your personal information, delete your files, and slow down your computer or cause it to stop working altogether.

If you follow these six tips, you’ll have a better idea of how to spot a virus on the internet.

1. Install antivirus software

If you want to avoid getting a virus on your devices from the internet, installing and running antivirus software is important. Cyberthreats have evolved, and everyday activities like online banking, shopping, and browsing can make you vulnerable to cyberthreats.

Viruses are a major cyberthreat, which is why it’s smart to keep your devices protected against them. Reputable security software can help protect against phishing and other online threats as you bank, shop, and browse online.

2. Be careful with email attachments

Email services like Gmail and Outlook ask for your permission before downloading an attachment. There’s a reason for that. Downloading an attachment can be dangerous. While email services often have virus protection built into their software, emails with viruses as attachments can still reach your inbox.

Cybercriminals often try to spread a virus with spamming emails. They send the emails with malicious attachments to a multitude of people. Once opened and executed, the virus can install in the background and begin its work.

If you don’t know the person who sent you an email attachment — or if the email looks like it could be a phishing attempt — then ignoring it might be your best option. Only click on attachments or download files from your email if you trust the source.

It’s also smart to disable image previews within your email software. This feature can be found in the Options or Settings of the program.

Some viruses can attach to images and install themselves as soon as the email is opened. You can configure your settings to only show images from trusted sources. This can help prevent an infected image from turning into a virus on your computer.

3. Patch your operating system and applications

Tech companies routinely put out software updates to make their devices or software safer to use. Without these updates, cybercriminals can abuse security flaws and force a device to download a virus.

This cyberthreat is called a software vulnerability. You might be careful to avoid viruses on the internet, but a software vulnerability may lurk in the background of your computer. The only way to ensure you’ve covered this risk? Regularly update your software whenever a patch is available. Or you can adjust your computer settings to accept updates automatically.

4. Avoid questionable websites

It is believed that there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world, and not all of them have the best intentions. The bad ones that pose a cyberthreat will use a variety of tools to download a virus to your computer, like drive-by downloads, hosting malicious advertisements, and getting you to click on misleading links.

Avoid clicking on links to websites with suspicious names, such as mixtures of letters and numbers that don’t resemble words. Also be on the lookout for websites that share names of trusted brands, but have a variation within the URL. If there are extra symbols in the URL, it’s likely a fake website.

5. Avoid pirated software

It might be tempting to get a free copy of a game, movie, or application that everyone else has to pay for. But if you download a cracked or illegal version of software, your computer or mobile device could be at risk.

Pirated software often comes from difficult-to-find websites or peer-to-peer sharing, both of which contain users who may simply be looking for their favorite movie, or those who are looking to spread a virus.

With no virus protection built into what’s being downloaded, it’s easy for a cybercriminal to slip a virus into a free application. Sometimes there won’t even be any free software — just a virus.

Be cautious when downloading anything for free. If you download pirated files — which is not recommended — make sure you’re using antivirus software.

6. Backup your computer

This tip may not help you avoid getting a virus on your devices from the internet, but it will help you sidestep some of the damage and stress that comes with it if you do.

By regularly using a cloud backup, you can keep copies of all your important files and records in a location that won’t be contaminated by the virus.

Then, should you become a victim of a computer virus that’s difficult to get rid of without damaging your files, you can simply wipe your device and restore it to the most recent point before it was infected.

Cyber threats have evolved, and so have we.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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