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How to avoid infecting your friends

After going to the toilet, you wash your hands, if you cough, you cover your mouth, and if you sneeze, you try not to hit anyone. In general, we all do our best to avoid passing our germs to other people. When it comes to preventing the spread of computer viruses, however, we’re all less considerate.

Thankfully, there are many (simple!) ways to reduce the spread of malware from our computers to other people. Just follow these five tips and you’ll help protect your friends from whatever nasty issues live on your computer:

1. Virus scan your files before you share them

Images, word documents, programs: computer files are the perfect hosts for spreading the seeds of malware.

If you want to be a responsible computer user – and a good friend – make sure you have virus protection installed on your computer before you send files to a friend.

Once installed, you can ask your virus checker to scan an individual file, so you know that you’ve done your best to remove any threats before sharing a file.

2. Don’t use unknown USB sticks

You wouldn’t drink water from a glass you found on the street, but would you plug an unknown USB stick in your computer?

The truth is, the same unknown risks exist between the two. Just like you don’t know what viruses could live on the glass, you have no idea what’s on the USB stick.

The only way to know how dangerous the situation is, is to either take a sip or plug in the USB stick. But you wouldn’t do that, right?

3. Avoid clicking links on social networks

Social networks are a great place to see what interesting websites your friends are sharing. Unfortunately, malware writers know this, and so have created viruses to do the same thing.

By pretending to be your friends, these criminals share links to try and infect your computer. And we’re more likely to believe the links are real because they have come from our “friends”.

Try to avoid any links on social media that seem out of character for your friend to post. This way you won’t get infected, and therefore the virus won’t hijack your account and trick your friends.

4. Don’t click unsolicited email links

We’ve been talking about this for ten years now, but it’s as relevant now as it has ever been. Do not click links in your email inbox from companies you don’t know.

It’s relatively easy for SPAMMERs to get your email address, and once they have it, they’ll try all the tricks in the book to get you to click a link. Once infected, your computer will most likely be used to SPAM your friends.

5. Avoid pirated software

We’re not here to protect the copyright of software companies, but this rule protects you as much as it protects them. Lots of pirated software now contains hidden malware, which means you’re getting an infection alongside your free program.

These could range from simple self-replicating viruses to malicious apps designed to steal your banking details – and unfortunately, you never know what you’re going to get until it’s too late. Like our last two points, many of these viruses are designed to spread, so you’re not just endangering yourself, but other people you know.

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