How to avoid malware and junk on your computer

By Eric Geier (Our Founder & Owner)

Originally published by Cox Media Group on 11/4/19

Computers can be a great tool for communication, entertainment, and education. But they can also be a source of frustration, especially when you have malware and other junk slowing it down, spying on you, and causing crashes. However, here I share many ways to better protect yourself and your computers: 

Get a professional checkup: I will give you some guidance in the tips below, but I strongly suggest a professional tech do a checkup and cleanup of your computer(s) each year, even if you aren’t having any apparent issues.

We can help with the following and much more, and likely catch issues before they really become a problem or disaster.

Ensure your browser’s homepage is legit: The homepage is the first webpage that comes up after you open your browser, whether that’s Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Mozilla Firefox. You want to make sure that homepage is a legit website (like Google, Yahoo, Bing, or MSN), especially if you use it for searching. There are many ways the homepage can change to a shady website or search engine. The real problem comes when you use that shady website, as the search results and ADs can be junk and or even scams.

Be careful of website and search engine ads: As mentioned above, websites and search engines can lead to junk and scams.

Though lesser-known shady websites might be worse, I’ve certainly seen some issues with the big ones too, like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and MSN.

Remember, most search engines will have ADs or sponsored links listed in the results, and you should avoid them and refer to the real results. Most websites will have an indicator next to the AD or sponsored link. Next time you search for something look for them, and avoid them.

Remove unnecessary browser toolbars and extensions: Web browsers allow add-ons, sometimes called toolbars and extensions, to give it some type of additional functionality.

These can be useful if you have the right add-ons, but most average computer users have unknowingly been tricked into installing junk add-ons that change their homepage, generate ADs, and cause other issues. You should remove any add-ons you don’t fully trust.

Block browser notifications: Over the past few years, the modern web browsers (like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge) have started to support a relativity new web feature called notifications. If a website supports notifications, you are prompted to allow or block notifications from that website at least the first time you visit the website. If you allow notifications from a website, they can send you a notification at any time even if you aren’t on that website.

Usually these notifications appear in the bottom-right and can contain content like a legit alert about your account from the website but can also be just junk, ADs, or clickbait. Most average computer users don’t need these notifications and are just a source of frustration, so I suggest disabling the notifications for most.

Malwarebytes antimal-ware: Most antivirus programs only look for real viruses and ignore other junk, like unnecessary toolbars and extensions.

For a good additional scanner that also looks for junk, I suggest Malwarebytes Antimalware (www.malwarebytes.com). They offer a free edition where you can perform manual scans, but I also usually recommend buying the premium edition. This antimalware program can be used along side most other full antivirus programs too.

Utilize the malwarebytes browser guard: This is a new free browser extension from Malwarebytes (www.malwarebytes.com/browserguard/) that can be used with the Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers. It has AD and tracker blocking and helps protect you from clickbait and scam websites as well. It’s a great layer of extra protection, even if you’re already using the full Malwarebytes Antimalware program.

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