A computer virus, much like a flu virus, is designed to spread from host to host and has the ability to replicate itself. Similarly, in the same way that viruses cannot reproduce without a host cell, computer viruses cannot reproduce and spread without programming such as a file or document.

Whether it’s a virus, worm, trojan, malware, ransomware, or anything in-between, one thing is clear: it’s not something you want on your PC or Mac.

When it comes to the internet, virus protection is a major concern of every user who’s browsing it. Rightfully so – viruses can steal your valuable information, delete your files and slow down your computer, or even cause it to stop working altogether.

Cybercriminals have learned a lot over the years, making it more difficult to spot where a virus could come from. If you follow these tips, you’ll have a better idea of how to spot a virus on the internet.

Always Install Anti-Virus Software

VIRUS word cloud, tag cloud, graphics – security concept

If you want to avoid getting a virus on the internet, antivirus software is an essential solution. Cyberthreats have evolved and everyday activities like online banking, shopping, and browsing can make you more vulnerable to cyberthreats. Viruses are included as a cyber threat, which is why it’s essential to keep your device protected against them. Instaling Anti-Virus software provides powerful layers of protection for your device.

Never Open Unknown Email Attachments

Email providers like Gmail and Outlook ask for your permission before downloading an attachment for a reason: they can be dangerous. While these services often have virus protection built into their software, emails with viruses as attachments can still get through their defences.

Cybercriminals who are looking to spread a virus may resort to spamming emails with malicious attachments to as many people as possible, hoping that one of the users opens it. Once opened and executed, the virus will immediately install in the background and begin its work.

Enable Automatic Updates

Vendors like Microsoft and Adobe routinely put out software updates in an attempt to make computers or software safer to use. Without them, cybercriminals can abuse “security loopholes” and force a device to download a virus.

This cyberthreat – called software vulnerabilities – lurks in the background of many users’ computers who do all they can to avoid viruses on the internet. The only way to ensure that you’ve covered this risk is to regularly update your software whenever a patch is available.

Avoid Dodgy Websites

People spend a lot of time browsing the internet. In the UK for instance, the average person spends a day per week online, Ofcom found in a report.

All that searching for the best meme or next great show to stream can lead to interesting parts of the web – including some dodgy parts. There are over 1.5 billion websites in the world, and not all of them have the best intentions. The bad ones that pose a cyberthreat will use a variety of tools to download a virus to your computer, like drive-by downloads, hosting malicious advertisements and getting you to click on misleading links.

Avoid clicking on links to websites with suspicious names, like mixtures of letters and numbers that don’t resemble words. Also be on the lookout for websites that share names of trusted brands, like Norton or Google, but have a variation within the URL. If there’s extra symbols in the URL, chances are it’s a fake website.

Never Installed Pirated Software

Pirated software either comes from difficult-to-find websites or peer-to-peer sharing, both of which contain crowds that are just looking for their favorite movie and those who are looking to spread a virus.

With no virus protection built into what’s being downloaded, it’s easy for a cybercriminal to slip in a virus in a free application. Sometimes there won’t even be any free software – just a virus! Exercise caution when downloading anything free and, if you do download pirated files, make sure you’re using antivirus software.

Backup Your Files

While this tip won’t help you avoid getting a virus on the internet, it will help you avoid some of the damage and stress that comes with it if you do.

By regularly using a cloud backup, you can keep copies of all your important files and records in a location that won’t be contaminated by the virus. Then, should you become a victim of a computer virus that’s difficult to get rid of without damaging your files, you can simply wipe your device and restore it to the most recent point before it was infected.