By now, users running Microsoft Windows computers are conditioned to accept the fact that their machines are prone to malware and virus, and that they have to buy antivirus software and other anti-malware software to protect themselves. From a certain point of view, this is true. According to AV-Test's security report for 2016 to 2017, Windows accounts for almost 70% of all known malware infections. Some 600 million malware programs have been detected by AV-Test for Windows alone. No wonder the antivirus companies are thriving.
So what can you do as a Windows user? There are many steps you can take to protect yourself, but these are my top 4.
* Update to Windows 10
Windows 10 has received a bad press in recent months for a wide ranging number of issues, from forced Windows 7 upgrades to slow gaming performance, and from forced installation of unwanted programs (eg. Minecraft) to computers that can't boot up post-upgrade. But it remains Microsoft's most updated operating system and by virtue of that fact, the least prone to malware and exploits. If you are using Windows 7, 8 or even 98 or XP, now would be a good time to upgrade.
* Keep patching your machine
As an ICT Manager, I come across unpatched machines everyday. I always advise students to keep their machines updated. This can be done simply by going to the Settings screen → Updates → Windows Update. Updates are released on a monthly or even weekly basis so it pays to keep your machine up to date.
* UNINSTALL Mcafee, Symantec and other antivirus programs and install MalwareBytes
This seems like a counterintuitive advice. Why uninstall these software and put myself at risk? The fact is that Windows has its own antivirus engine built in, Windows Defender and this is *sufficient* for everyone. Windows Defender has some inbuilt smarts inside it that gives it a definite advantage over other security vendors. Its cloud and AI based platform allows Microsoft to see zero-day exploits as they occur and within a few minutes of an attack, provide a solution to the issue.
If you must install one, MalwareBytes provides a safe alternative to the rest of the security vendors. With the exception of 1 incident in which they caused havoc on users' computers, MalwareBytes would be a safe choice.
* Backup, backup, backup
I am always reminded of the axiom that I first learned as a young system engineer, which is “You can never have too many backups”. I learnt early the power of the 3,2,1 principle. This means the following :-
a. 3 total copies of your data b. 2 of which are on local but on different devices. c. 1 copy offsite
The last point is especially important - it ensures that you have access to your data even if your house burns to the ground.
Next week, we will look more closely at Mac computers.