3 Easy Tips to be Safe from Malware and Avoid Being Hacked
#1 Be Vigilant about Attachments and Links
To help avoid falling prey to malware and prevent hacking risks, pause and reflect before opening unfamiliar links or attachments. This is true whether they are contained in emails, webpages, social media messages or chat sessions, even when the messages come from trusted sources. Shed the risky habit of routinely opening attachments and links as this makes you susceptible to malware and hacking attempts.
Malware remains the biggest source of hacking risk, so scan all attachments for malware before opening them. Even if your email service has built-in malware scanning, you should scan message attachments after saving them to your device, especially if they were sent to you from unknown or seemingly suspicious sources.
For links, if your email and web browser supports it, hover your cursor above a link before clicking on it and see if the actual URL matches the displayed text. When supported, the URL of a link is usually displayed either in a small, pop-up display or in the status bar at the bottom of the app’s window. If the URL doesn’t match the link text, be extra careful.
In fact, the safest practice (though not always practical) is to manually type web addresses into your web browser rather than clicking on links. Of course, this is a pain for long link addresses. In addition, many subscriber-based emails will have links with long complicated URLs as they are often redirected through the subscription management service (such as Aweber).
Manually typing link addresses into your web browser is especially recommended – even mandatory – when you receive them in messages you were not expecting or that are from unknown sources. It is easy to be fooled into clicking on a link that sends you to a fake or spoofed website. These links can look convincing. However, if you type the link into your browser, you will never be tricked into visiting www.amaz0n.com or www.facebok.com when you wanted www.amazon.com or www.facebook.com. (As it happens, both of these misspellings will take you to the proper sites, but that is not always the case.)
#2 Use Your Email’s Spam and Malware Filters
Spam filters are now common features of most email. They block unsolicited and risky emails from reaching your Inbox. The term “spam filter” doesn’t do them justice. These filters actually detect and prevent a lot of malware too which further helps to prevent hacking risks.
Enabling these filters and spending some time with the settings should help prevent a lot of malware (and spam of course) from reaching your inbox in the first place. Gmail and Yahoo both have excellent built-in filters.
#3 Keep your Device’s Operating System and Critical Apps Updated
Always keep your device’s operating system and other critical apps up-to-date. This means activating any automatic update features on your device to ensure that any flaws or vulnerabilities they are found to have are patched as quickly as possible.
In Windows, go to your Start menu, type “Windows Update” (no quotes) and select Change Settings. In the ‘Important updates’ radio bar select Install updates automatically (recommended) and then select OK.
For Android devices, automatic updates are enabled by default. To check if your device is up to date, go to Settings (gear) in your main menu’s collection of icons, under ‘System’ select About tablet and then System updates.
Apart from your devices’ operating systems, it is equally important that you keep critical apps up-to-date too, especially those protecting you from malware, viruses and spyware. Each app will have its own automatic update setting, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find. The automatic update setting is often enabled by default in any event.