1) Avoid Freeware Software When Possible
We've all been in the situation where you need a program to complete a task, and purchasing software you probably won't ever use again makes little sense. Finding a free program seems like the way to go. Before you hit that download button, read our quick guide on freeware downloading practices.
2) Double Check Attachments Before Opening
Most people these days know to avoid opening attachments from senders you don't recognize. However, a common tactic hackers use after breaching a victim's email is to send those attachments to everyone in their address book. So even if you receive an email with an attachment from someone you know, if it's unexpected, it may be a good idea to double check with them first.
3) Learn to identify ad-content on web pages
Most websites on the internet, especially news websites, rely far too much on ads to generate revenue. This had led many websites to do sneaky things, such as hiding what's called Sponsored Content among their own content. The problem is, the platforms that host the ad content are frequently used to plant malicious content. Avoiding those ads, or using an ad-blocker, is a great way to keep your computer safe.
The most effective malicious content spreads not by exploiting hardware or software, but by understanding people. The reality is we're often in a hurry and too lazy to read notifications and those ridiculous Terms of Service agreements. When you're on the internet, be sure to scan notifications so you don't accidentally are to be bombarded with ads or install a browser extension laced with adware.
When you're installing software, it's a good idea to at least do a cursory scan of the terms and what comes with the software. Often times it's as simple as clicking "decline" to avoid accidentally installing an unwanted program or virus.
5) Don't Rely On Anti-Virus
An executive at Symantec (the company behind Norton Anti-virus) famously proclaimed in 2014 that anti-virus was dead, and estimated it only catches about 45% of malicious content. In 2017, 94% of the virus removal services we performed were on computers that had anti-virus software on them.
Why is anti-virus so ineffective? Most consumer anti-virus still relies heavily on signature-based detection, which means a threat has to be discovered and "fingerprinted" before your anti-virus will recognize it. As a result, anti-virus companies are moving to behavior-based detection, which seems to be more promising. However, according McAfee research, there are 4 new threats discovered every second by their systems.