Guard your business against viruses, spyware, and malware

There is no method that can guarantee that your device will be immune to attacks by viruses and malware. However, there are steps that you can take to lessen the risks.

Use a firewall

A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to delete information, crash your computer, or even steal your passwords or credit card numbers. Depending on which operating system you have on your computer, you might already have a firewall and it might already be turned on for you. Never turn off your firewall.

A firewall is included in most Windows operating systems. To turn on or check your firewall settings, select the version of Windows installed on your device.

Windows 8.1 and Windows 8
Windows 7
Windows Vista
Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Service Pack 2 (SP2)
Windows XP

Update your software

Run Windows Update to obtain the latest updates for Microsoft software. This includes security updates that are released on the second Tuesday of each month. Select the version of Windows installed on your device and follow the instructions to get updates automatically.
Windows 8.1 and Windows 8
Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Windows XP

Adjust Internet Explorer security settings

You can adjust the security settings in Internet Explorer to specify how much—or how little—information you want to accept from a website.

Microsoft recommends that you set the security settings for the Internet zone to Medium or higher. (If you use Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP Service Pack 2 and you use Internet Explorer to browse the web, your browser security settings for the Internet zone are set to Medium by default.)

Both Internet Explorer 9 and Internet Explorer 10 include a number of features, such as SmartScreen Filter to help protect against viruses, spyware, and many other kinds of malicious, deceptive, or unwanted software. If you attempt to visit a website or download a file that has been reported as unsafe, SmartScreen Filter displays a warning that advises you about the potential dangers and enables you to provide feedback.
  • Application Reputation is a part of SmartScreen Filter in Internet Explorer. Application Reputation helps reduce the number of unnecessary warning prompts for most downloads and will display them only when you are about to download programs that are more likely to be malicious.
  • Windows SmartScreen is built into the Windows 8 operating system. If your computer is running Windows 8, then Windows SmartScreen Application Reputation can help protect you from downloaded programs that are more likely to be malicious. You can adjust Windows SmartScreen settings to suit your preferences for dealing with unrecognized apps.

Download and install antivirus software

Microsoft Security Essentials helps protects your device from viruses, spyware, and other unwanted software. It is available as a free download for Windows XP SP2 and higher, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.

Note: In Windows 8, Windows Defender replaces Microsoft Security Essentials. Windows Defender runs in the background and notifies you when you need to take specific action. However, you can use it anytime to scan for malware if your computer isn’t working properly or if you clicked a suspicious link online or in an email message.

To install Microsoft Security Essentials, follow these steps:
  1. Go to the Microsoft Security Essentials website.
  2. Click Free Download.
  3. Click Run, and then follow the instructions to install Microsoft Security Essentials.
  4. After installation, restart your computer.
  5. Click Start, click All Programs, and then click Microsoft Security Essentials.
  6. On the Home tab, select the Full scan option, and then click Scan now.
If your device is already infected with a virus, see Remove a computer virus to learn how to get rid of it.

Surf and download more safely

The best defense against spyware and other unwanted software is not to download it in the first place. Here are a few tips that can help you avoid downloading software that you don't want:
  • Download programs only from websites you trust. If you're not sure whether to trust a program you are considering downloading, enter the name of the program into your favorite search engine to see if anyone else has reported that it contains spyware. Files that end in the extensions .exe or .scr commonly hide malware. However, even files with familiar extensions such as .docx, .xlsx, and .pdf can be dangerous.
  • Read all security warnings, license agreements, and privacy statements associated with any software you download. Before you install something, consider the risks and benefits of installing it, and be aware of the fine print. For example, make sure that the license agreement does not conceal a warning that you are about to install software with unwanted behavior.
  • Never click "Agree" or "OK" to close a window. Instead, click the red "x" in the corner of the window or press Alt + F4 on your keyboard to close a window.
  • Be wary of popular "free" music and movie file-sharing programs, and be sure you understand all of the software that is packaged with those programs.
  • Use a standard user account instead of an administrator account. For more information, see Why use a standard account instead of an administrator account?
  • Don't click links on suspicious websites or in email messages. Instead, type the website address directly into your browser, or use bookmarks.
  • Don't automatically trust that instant messages, email messages, or messages on social networking websites are from the person they appear to be from. Even if they are from someone you know, contact the person before you click the link to ensure that they intended to send it.
  • Uninstall software that you don't use. You can remove it using Windows Control Panel.
  • Use strong passwords and keep them secret.
  • Use flash drives cautiously. Hold down the SHIFT key when you insert the drive into your computer. If you forget to do this, click X in the upper-right corner to close any flash drive-related pop-up windows.


Article ID: 3064086 - Last Review: Jun 15, 2015 - Revision: 1