May 27, 2022

How students can keep themselves safe from malware and viruses

It can be difficult to figure out how to keep yourself safe on the internet. Everything from viruses, to data breaches, to attacks on wi-fi networks, you’re connected to are all ways that your devices can be compromised. However, there is a myriad of ways you can manage to keep yourself a little bit safer. 

Keyloggers and password services

One of the worst viruses for the average user is some form of keylogger. These malicious programs will usually sit on your computer and send whatever input you type to some external source. More advanced versions of these can also detect copy + pasted text, as well. 

A great way to beat these and have increased password security is through services like LastPass. These services are generally safer than your regular Google Chrome password manager but work in a similar way. 

If you go to log in on a website, these services will auto-input your username and password, effectively preventing keyloggers from getting anything if they are on your device.

Not only is this effective in making you safer from keyloggers, but it also has the added benefit of storing your passwords somewhere safe, meaning you won’t forget your passwords anymore. 

A good tool to see if any of your emails have been caught up in a data breach is haveIbeenpwned.com. It’s a site that allows you to input an email and it will tell you all data breaches that email is known to have been involved in. 

If all your passwords are the same and haven’t been changed since a breach, you should definitely change it ASAP. 

Viruses & where you might get them

Viruses can come from sketchy links, sketchy downloads, or even legitimate-looking sites. Sites like these can be one of the hardest things for users to avoid because of how many avenues ill-willed people have to get malicious programs onto your computer.

Here are a few basic tips to keep in mind:

 Avoid sites that are obviously sketchy, like sites that allow you to stream pirated movies.

If, for whatever reason, you really want to go to a sketchy-looking website, you can check the site out with a service such as virustotal.com. It’s a free website that runs a bunch of scans on the link or file you provide. It isn’t foolproof, but it is a tool that can be used to provide a bit more safety. 

Sometimes Google search results will have ads above your results. These are denoted by a small ad text next to the link. THESE ARE NOT VETTED meaning that any of these could be malicious and should be avoided. 

And never click on pop-up ads.

Anti-Virus

Paid antivirus is, in all reality, not useful for your average user. If you’re a Windows or a Mac user, Windows defender and Mac’s default antivirus are about just as satisfactory as any other anti-virus software on the market. In most cases with other anti-virus software, you’ll just be slowing down your computer by installing and running it. 

At the end of the day, you can only do so much to protect yourself and if you suspect or even know that your computer is filled with viruses, that does not mean you have to throw it out. 

Reformatting is the process of completely wiping your computer of all data and info and reinstalling Windows or Mac OS, effectively making them as they were on day one. 

While it can be difficult for your average user to figure out, it is preferable to purchasing a new $500-$2000 laptop. There are a ton of different videos and guides out there on how to do it. Give yourself a few hours and save yourself that lump sum of money. 

For Windows, avoid the factory reset option because that option leaves old files on your computer, potentially leaving particularly tough viruses and malware behind.

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