How do I keep my laptop from getting a virus or spyware?
Let's begin with the most important thing first, security software.
The most important thing is to run a reliable Anti-Virus, Firewall and Anti-Spyware programs on your computer. Some security suites offer comprehensive protection, such as Norton, Trend Micro, Kaspersky and McAfee. Many of these come pre-installed on new laptops. For a variety of reasons, the subscription may have lapsed at the end of the trial period. To keep your laptop healthy, consider re-subscribing - or trying a free or a cheaper alternative. Be sure to set your virus scanner to check for updates and scan your computer on a regular basis. CCLS does not endorse any software products but reliable software reviews can be found on cnet.com:
Some other tips
Keep Your browser up to date
Use the most recent version of your of your browser. Periodically, when updates are released, your browser should notify you. Note that most PCs will come pre-equipped with Internet Explorer but some experts recommend using an alternate browser for better security. Whatever you choose to use, its a good idea to make sure its the most recent version.
Install Windows Update on a regular schedule
Windows will automatically check for updates but many users choose to ignore installing them because its inconvenient. A solution is to set an update schedule that works for you. Choose a time and date in the Control Panel (Control Panel > Windows Update >Change settings). To keep your computer happy, updates should be installed at least once a week. Following this schedule consistently will help prevent more expensive and time consuming repairs down the line.
Watch where you go on the Internet
Be aware that the most common way for viruses, spyware and other malware to spread is through visiting infected web sites. Flash gaming sites are a particular hazard. Keeping the Flash plugin up to date as well as your browser will help. You can also adjust your browser's default security settings if you are unsure about a particulare site. To do this in Internet Explorer go to Tools > Internet Options > Security and adjust the slider downward. See the screen shot below:
Studies show that one in five Facebook users have received some sort of infection on the site. One cause is clicking links to infected videos supposedly sent by a "friend". The link then directs the user to download the latest version of a copycat video player. As a best practice, never follow these links. It is a good idea to know what software you have on your computer and download updates to them from a site you know and trust.
If you have suspicions about a site, try doing a Google search for the website with the word "malware" at the end of the search string.
Be careful of any email attachments. Only open attachments from people you know and are expecting an attachment from. Hackers can easily make emails you receive look as if it is coming from someone you know - which may or may not be the case. For this reason, be careful of links sent to you by email and of suspicious messages that contains an urgent request or asks you to update your information or provide new information. You will hear these referred to as "phishing scams". Finally, never open an attachment with .EXE extension at he end. These are "executables" and will make changes to your system.
Keep Other Software Up To Date
These programs should be kept up to date to prevent exploitations in older versions of the program and should always be done from a site that either licenses the software or another reputable distribution site.
Adobe PDF Reader
Adobe Flash Player
Java - Always be sure to uninstall previous versions of Java as well. Only one version is needed by your computer.
The big money in computer hacking today is password theft. Always be sure that the password you use to important sites contains at least eight characters at a minimum and contains both letters and numbers (you get bonus points for using capital letters and special characters). It is also a good idea to use different passwords on different sites and change them frequently.