Is your device running a bit slower than usual? Maybe random screens are popping up? Does your bank account have unknown charges on it?
These are some signs that your device might be infected with malware – malicious software designed to harm your device or network.
Here are simple ways to help protect yourself:
Keep your browser and operating system up to date
Most operating systems and software will notify you when it’s time to upgrade – don’t ignore these messages and update as soon as you can. Old versions of software can sometimes have security problems that criminals can use to more easily get to your data. Google’s Chrome browser automatically updates to the latest version every time you start it up, so you can get the most up-to-date security protection without any extra work.
Always keep an eye on what you click and download, including music, movies, files, browser plug-ins or add-ons
Be wary of pop-up windows that ask you to download software or that offer to fix your computer. Often these pop-ups will claim that your computer has been infected and that their download can fix it – don’t believe them. Close the window and make sure you don’t click inside the pop-up window. Do not open files of unknown types, or if you see unfamiliar browser prompts or warnings asking you to open a file. Sometimes malware may prevent you from leaving a page if you land on it, for example by repeatedly opening a download prompt. If this happens, use your computer’s task manager or activity monitor to close your browser.
When in doubt, use trusted bookmarks for important sites, use your search engine to navigate to the site or type the site address directly into your browser. You should also check to see if the web address begins with https:// – which signals that your connection to the website is encrypted and more resistant to snooping or tampering.
When you do install software, make sure you’re getting the software from a trusted source
Some programs bundle malware as part of their installation process. Before you start a download, there are a few simple steps you can take to help reduce your risk of downloading malware along with the software you want.
Check the reputation of the store – is it an authoritative source, like your phone or browser’s built-in app store, or the developer’s website, as opposed to an unfamiliar third-party download site? You can also check the reputation of the developer by looking at what others have said about them in the past. Check for online review or comments about that particular download. If you see that many people didn’t like it or had a bad experience, you might not want to download it yourself.
If you notice something suspicious after your download – such as significant computer slowness, unexpected pop-ups or messages, or unfamiliar billing charges – uninstall the software immediately and make sure your anti-virus is running and up-to-date.
Many browsers will warn you if you try to go to a website that is suspected of hosting malware. If you get a warning that a site you want to visit may not be safe, look at the URL and think carefully about whether you want to visit the site or not. Even if you have visited the site before, criminals may have compromised the site since the last time you visited, so it may not be safe to go to until the site’s owners have cleaned up their site.
If your computer is infected with malware, remove it as soon as you can
One way to clean your computer is to scan it with at least one, and ideally a few, high-quality antivirus products. We can’t vouch for their programs’ effectiveness, but trying the latest versions of any of them often makes a difference. You may also use the site av-comparatives.org to find other anti-virus software and review test results.