Guard your business against viruses, spyware, and malware

Support for Windows XP has ended

Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. This change has affected your software updates and security options. Learn what this means for you and how to stay protected.

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 Firewall is included and is turned on by default. Open Windows Firewall by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search). Enter firewall in the search box, tap or click Settings, and then tap or click Windows Firewall

In the left pane, tap or click Turn Windows Firewall on or off  UAC.  You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

For more information, see Windows Firewall from start to finish.

Windows 7

Windows 7 comes with Windows Firewall, a two-way firewall that is automatically turned on. It's as powerful as the firewall in previous versions of Windows, but now it's more flexible and easier to use. For more information see Windows Firewall.

You do not have to use Windows Firewall though—you can install and run any firewall that you choose. Evaluate the features of other firewalls and then decide which firewall best meets your needs. If you choose to install and run another firewall, turn off Windows Firewall.

Windows Vista

Windows Vista comes with Windows Firewall, a two-way firewall that is automatically turned on.

You do not have to use Windows Firewall—you can install and run any firewall that you choose. Evaluate the features of other firewalls and then decide which firewall best meets your needs. If you choose to install and run another firewall, turn off Windows Firewall.

Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Service Pack 2 (SP2)

After April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates for Windows XP SP3.

Learn about upgrading to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

Both Windows XP SP3 and Windows XP SP2 come with Windows Firewall automatically turned on.

Windows XP

After April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates for Windows XP SP3.

Learn about upgrading to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

Windows XP comes with Internet Connection Firewall, but you must turn it on to use it.

To turn on Internet Connection Firewall:
  1. Point to Control Panel, double-click Network and Internet Connections, and then click Set up or change your home or small office network.
  2. Follow the steps in the Network Setup Wizard to turn on the Internet Connection Firewall.
When you choose a configuration in the wizard that indicates that your computer is connected directly to the Internet, the Internet Connection Firewall is turned on.

Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows Service Pack 3 (SP3) come with Windows Firewall automatically turned on. Visit Microsoft Update to download Windows XP SP3 for free.

For more information about how Windows Firewall works:

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

  1. Open Windows Update by swiping in from the right edge of the screen (or, if you're using a mouse, by pointing to the lower-right corner of the screen and moving the mouse pointer up), then tapping or clicking Settings, tapping or clicking Change PC settings, and then tapping or clicking Update and recovery.
  2. Tap or click Choose how updates get installed.
  3. Under Important updates, select the option that you want.
  4. Under Recommended updates, select the Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates check box, and then click Apply.

Windows 7 and Windows Vista

  1. Click Start, type Windows update in the search box, and then click Windows Update in the Programs list.
  2. In the left pane, click Change settings.
  3. Select the option that you want.
  4. Under Recommended updates, select the Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates or Include recommended updates when downloading, installing, or notifying me about updates check box, and then click OK.

Windows XP

  1. Click Start, click Run, type sysdm.cpl, and then press ENTER.
  2. Click the Automatic Updates tab, and then select the Automatic (recommended) Automatically download recommended updates for my computer and install them option.
  3. Click OK.

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.

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Article ID: 3064086 - Last Review: 06/15/2015 06:37:00 - Revision: 1.0

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