How to protect your computer from viruses? Or trojans? How about malware and hackers?

The answer is via a combination of hardware, software and your own behaviour. I've never had an infection and all I use is the right common sense. In this article, I will tell you how you can also protect your own PC too.

Hardware Firewall For Home Use

A firewall is a piece of hardware that sits between your computer and the internet.

Chances are, you may already have one. How do you know?

Check your internet connection. If you have a router then this also acts as a hardware firewall so you do not need to purchase one.

On the other hand, if you don't have or don't think you have a router then check the device that provides the internet connection to your PC. If your PC is connected via USB then it is likely that you do not have a router/hardware firewall. If it is connected via a connector that looks like a large phone line connector then your "box" is a router and you are therefore protected by it.

These days, most new installations of cable or DSL come with a router with built-in hardware firewall.

Software Firewall For Windows

A hardware firewall will stop hackers from getting to your PC. Often, it will completely hide the presence of your PC to the outside world.

A software firewall can also do this but is more useful for preventing rogue software that might have been inadvertently installed on your PC from being able to communicate with the outside world.

Why might you want to prevent such behaviour? Because such communcations might contain sensitive data such as recorded keystrokes that contain passwords, for example.

Most software firewalls are pretty similar. The most popular is the Norton package and it works very well (perhaps too well). Kerio firewall is also another good one.

With such software, you will be asked to authorise an application the first time that it tries to communicate with the outside world. This way, you can see instantly when a previously unknown and rogue piece of software tries to get information out.

Virus Scanner For PC

Every PC needs a virus scanner. Modern virus scanners instantly tell you the moment that you have a virus and can advise you what to do e.g. to clean the infected file or simply erase it.

You can get a free virus scanner called AVG. It is very popular but is not the best.

I recommend you purchase a quality virus scanner. It will be capable of detecting more viruses than free ones and will better protect you. Even AVG has a paid version that has better functionality than its free version.

How To Protect Yourself Against Malware

Malware is a major problem these days, thanks to the popularity of the world wide web.

The most insidious malware is like a trojan. It sits on your PC and transmits confidential data back to the base of criminal operations. The least harmful type of malware is just annoying.

You don't need to buy software to protect against malware. I advise installing Spybot, Ad-Aware and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. Then you should run regular checks, I recommend weekly.

Common Sense

Protective measures like software and hardware are not an excuse for being careless.

The number one reason why people get infections is not due to a lack of the above measures. It is due to the behaviour of the operator.

Anything you do on your computer can lead to a reaction of some sort. For example, iyou click on a pop-up message because you are annoyed but you fail to read it properly then you could get infected with malware for your laziness.

Here is my own personal advice which has led to me never having a major infection on my PC.

  • Always think before you click on anything. Ask yourself what you are doing. Never do something "blind".
  • If you don't understand a message then it is generally a safe bet to click the "x" in the top-right corner. Make sure that it is part of a genuine window and not just a graphic designed to deceive you.
  • Viruses from downloaded files can only be present in executable files such as those with the extension .exe or .com. Good virus scanning software will scan such files the instant you download them. However, you should only ever install or run programs downloaded from trusted sources. Never install software from a source that you are unsure of.
  • Scan your PC regularly. It is almost impossible to avoid some minor malware from web surfing. However, the more regular your scans then the greater the chance that you can limit any "infection".