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Jul 2017

Antivirus is no longer enough to protect your computer

It wasn’t that long ago that anti-virus software was the epitome of computer security, especially if you were a Windows user. However, ransomware and crypto malware attacks are rising at a terrifying rate and show no signs of stopping. Unfortunately, traditional anti-virus software alone is not effective in dealing with these types of attacks

Although experts still recommend using anti-virus software to protect your computer, this is now only the first part of a “layered approach” to keeping your PC and personal information safe.

The second part of the “layered approach” is to ensure your computer’s other software (especially the operating system) is up-to-date. Remember the WannaCry ransomware attack which struck the NHS’ (amongst other organisations) Windows machines in May? Microsoft had already provided a software update about two months before the attack that protected users running operating systems like Windows 7 or Windows Vista from WannaCry. However, PCs that hadn’t been updated or that were Windows XP were left vulnerable. Microsoft says users who were running Windows 10 weren’t affected by the attack.
Don’t forget to keep your anti-virus software, like Windows Defender, updated too. The software can't fight a threat it doesn't yet know about, and that information is found in regular updates.

The third layer is to recognise that phishing attacks are the most common way for attackers to get into your system. Phishing attempts happen when you receive an email with a malicious link in it, or are asked to enter your username and password on a website that impersonates your bank’s website, for example. So, try to be smart about what email service you use. Google and Microsoft are good choices, because, as they have effective inbuilt controls and security, they help prevent phishing in their Gmail and Outlook.com email services.

DO BACK UP YOUR DATA REGULARLY, because should your computer become infected by ransomware, you can wipe your computer, install the operating system from scratch, and then restore it from the backed-up version. OK, so it can be a pain to do, however it’s better than losing everything. Don’t forget to unplug your back up drive from the computer once the backup is done, otherwise it too will become infected.

Finally, as I have mentioned many times before, vigilance and common sense are crucial factors in helping prevent malware and ransomware attacks:

  • Never follow links from e-mails. Instead open a new tab or window and enter the URL of your bank or other destination manually.

  • Enter your username and password only over a secure connection. Look for the “https” prefix before the site URL - if there is no “s,” beware.

Upgrading a slow computer

Is your computer sluggish? Or maybe it no longer supports the games you play? Whatever your reasons for needing to upgrade to a better hardware, there are primarily three things you can upgrade on a computer: the hard drive, the RAM memory, and the video/sound/graphics cards.

Upgrading your computer’s RAM
RAM (Random Access Memory) is the temporary storage memory used by your computer. The more programs you use, the more RAM you need, and the slower your computer will be if you don’t have enough.
Adding RAM is often the cheapest upgrade you can make to speed up a slow computer. Although it may have had more than enough RAM when you first bought it, after a few years it will have trouble keeping up with the demands of the latest programs. Greater RAM means that the computer won´t have to rely on the hard drive for memory and with more memory, you will be able to operate more programs and software simultaneously.
When upgrading the computer´s RAM you must identify the type of RAM it is using. To do this, right click the Start button, then click System and you will see the Installed Memory (RAM) information. As a rule of thumb, if you have a 32-bit system, you will need 2GB of RAM. If you have a 64-bit operating system, we recommend a minimum of 6GB of RAM.

Upgrading your computer’s hard drive
Movies, music, and all those Steam games you bought in the sale will quickly fill your hard drive space. Upgrading your hard drive may also be a requirement when you need to perform a system update, a software update, or run a new operating system. Hard drives tend to become less effective and reliable over time, therefore, if you have used your hard drive for a long period of time and don’t want it to suddenly stop working, thus, putting your valuable information at risk, you should consider upgrading it.

SSDs have read and write speeds many times greater than classic hard disks. Before purchasing an SSD, do check that it's possible to get inside your computer and that yours is compatible with the SSD. If it's just a few years old, it probably is.
Really old models might not have support for SSDs (but a computer that elderly isn't going to be worth upgrading anyway!).

Upgrade your desktop’s graphics card
A graphic card basically turns processed data into video signal before sending it to the output or to your display. You may need to upgrade your graphics card if you have problems with your current card, for a better performance (especially for gamers) or to support dual screens. NOTE: This mainly applies to desktops - it is not possible to change a graphics card in 99.9% of laptops.