Protect your computer (and yourself) from malware and other threats

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In my last column, I wrote about the importance of reading carefully to avoid clicking on pop-ups that might install malware, dangerous browser extensions, or generate irritating notifications. Some readers subsequently asked about a few issues that I hadn’t considered.

One reader said she was able to avoid these traps, but her children who shared her computer often clicked on pop-ups and put the computer at risk.

Parents can block their children from using the computer or monitor them all the time, but there are better solutions.

A preventive measure is education. Have the kids visit Trend Micro’s Cyber ​​Academy for Kids (https://tinyurl.com/y2trfzn9) to find out what can happen to them on the internet. This is an interactive site with videos, quizzes, information, and discussion guides to teach your kids about internet safety.

Another solution is to create a standard account for each young person using your computer. Each standard user will have their own login, personal desktop, and files, but cannot install any programs or make changes to the computer’s system or software.

In Win 10 or 11, go to Settings, then Accounts. In the Your Information section, you will see your login name and that you are the administrator, which means you can create and delete other user accounts. Make sure you have a login password or create one in the login options, and make sure it is saved securely and not shared with anyone.

Click Family & other users, then click Add someone else to this PC. You’ll give each child a local account that saves you from having to register each child for a Microsoft account. Begin the process and choose the option that you don’t have the person’s sign-in information, then Next, and indicate that you want to set up an account without a Microsoft account. Give the child a username and password and save them in a safe place.

When the computer starts, a standard user can log in and use the computer but cannot modify or install anything without your password, which only you know. Microsoft has instructions for setting up local accounts (https://tinyurl.com/4z9p7bem).

You can also make a change to your computer settings to prevent anyone, including you, from inadvertently installing malware. Open Settings, select Apps and at the top of the page you’ll see a header labeled Choose where to get apps. You can choose to install apps or programs from anywhere, which is dangerous, or to be warned before you install something, which isn’t very protective if children are involved. The setting to only install apps from the Microsoft store is great for preventing anyone using the computer from installing anything malicious.

Another question I received was if it was possible for someone to get rid of suspected spyware on a computer at home rather than taking it to a computer service center. The answer is that you can probably remove spyware, adware, and malware yourself if you have some basic computer skills.

You need to download and install Malwarebytes from the official website (https://www.malwarebytes.com/premium). I have been using the program for years to remove malware and unnecessary add-ons from many computers.

During installation, decline the offer to install a browser extension and don’t be alarmed when you notice that your “free download” is actually a 30-day trial version of the commercial application, which costs about $50 per year. You can easily convert Malwarebytes to the free version and the only difference is that the paid version always runs in the background while the free version has to be run manually whenever you need it.

When you launch the program for the first time, cancel all purchase offers, click on the small gear icon at the top right, open the Account section and click on Deactivate Premium trial, which will convert it to the free. In the main window, click on Scan and when it is finished, choose to quarantine the infected files found, which can be many.

With some caution, careful reading, standard and Malwarebytes accounts, you can maintain a useful and well-functioning computer.

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