How Did My Computer Catch That Virus, Anyway?

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By: Top 10 Antivirus Software Staff 


It's important to protect yourself on public networks


The only way to be 100% sure your computer will never catch a virus is to never connect it to the Internet and use only the original, factory-installed software. Even if you never open unexpected attachments and ignore all emails from Nigerian princes, your computer can get infected. Here are four surprising ways your computer might have caught that virus during your morning routine


1. You smoke an e-cigarette

You gave up smoking for your health, but your e-cigarette could endanger your computer's health. It's not the e-cigarette vapors that are bad for your computer, but the fact that it's a USB device. USB memory devices can transfer viruses along with files, but the risk isn't limited to memory sticks. All USB devices can present a danger. The problem is that malware can be loaded onto a device when it's charging, and the malware can execute automatically when the device is plugged into your PC's USB port. The solution? Don't go back to lighting up, but try not to recharge your e-cigarette, or other USB devices, from public charging stations. Carry a plug and charge from a wall outlet instead.

Public WiFi's are a danger zone

2. You had a cup of coffee

Did you finish your e-cigarette and then step into your favorite coffee shop? If you connected your laptop to Wi-Fi while you sipped your latte, it could have become infected. The first problem is that it's possible the network you connected to isn't the coffee shop's network; it's easy for hackers to create a hotspot with a legitimate-sounding name. Even if you're on the right network, public Wi-Fi makes laptops easy target for hackers. They can read all the data you send over the network and potentially upload files, including viruses, to your computer. The solution? Don't let your laptop automatically connect to unknown networks, and keep a firewall running to keep intruders out.

3. You read your news online

So you're sipping your latte and browsing your favorite sites. It's not their fault, but visiting them--or any other advertising-supported site--can get you infected. The ads sites run usually come from third-party ad servers, and it's easy for them to pass on "malvertising"--malicious ads. Clicking on an ad can take you to a malicious site, but the real danger is that you don't even need to click on the ad to be infected. The solution? Avoid this problem by using ad-blocking software, or configuring your browser to need permission to execute code.

Be careful while reading news online

4. You visited an online forum

You still had coffee in your cup and weren't ready to head to the office yet, so you headed to a forum to shoot the breeze online. Unfortunately, not everyone in your favorite hangout is a nice guy. Be careful of links posted in user comments, because they may go somewhere dangerous. Worse, some sites don't prevent users from including executable JavaScript in their comments. That can do harm without your even clicking a link. The solution? Protect yourself by requiring your browser to ask permission before running the code.

The most likely way your computer came down with a virus? You didn't use antivirus software, or you didn't keep it updated. Antivirus software can't protect you against viruses it doesn't know about, so updating its virus definitions regularly is necessary to stay safe. Make sure you use the best antivirus software to protect your PC. Use the feature comparison to choose the right software for you.

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