According to a report by Microsoft, if your PC is or has ever been infected with a virus, it’s probably your fault – 44.8 percent of Windows malware infections happened because of something the user clicked on.
These clicks are typically unintentional. After all, who would download a virus to their computer on purpose? But with a little common sense, they can be completely avoided. The FTC provides advice on How Not to Get Hooked by a Phishing Scam that should be mandatory reading for anyone with an Internet connection.
The second-greatest threat to your computer is called AutoRun. It’s a “feature” of Windows that’s responsible for 43.2 percent of all malware infections. Used correctly, it allows you to put a disk in your computer and have the software on that disk install automatically.
But Windows XP and Windows Vista come preset at a lower level of security for AutoRun. Virus writers have taken advantage of this, and they can get both operating systems to automatically install their malware quite easily.
Fortunately, Microsoft issued a free update to users of XP and Vista in February that makes AutoRun more secure. Simply open Windows Update and install all of the important updates. Turn on automatic updating while you’re there – which will ensure you always receive the latest security patches.
Windows 7 defaults to a more secure AutoRun out of the box, so users of Microsoft’s latest operating system don’t need to change anything.
The remaining 12 percent of computer malware infections? They’re due to a variety of reasons, but keeping your software and operating system up to date (especially your web browser and Flash) can protect you from all but a minuscule percentage of viruses and malware.