Viruses, spyware and other malicious software or malicious code (malware) can stop your computer working properly, delete or corrupt your files, steal information, or allow others to access your computer and your personal or business information.
Important: Install anti-virus software on all devices and set the software to automatically check for updates on a daily basis.
How to be safe online - use anti-virus software
Your computer can be infected by malware in a number of ways including:
- clicking on false website links
- visiting websites that have been infected by malware
- downloading infected apps and files from the internet, or
- opening infected email attachments.
The consequences of a malware infection can be serious and far-reaching – from losing access to your files to becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud.
Anti-virus software monitors and protects computers and other devices (like smartphones and tablets) from infection. It must be updated regularly in order to recognise the latest threats, but should do this automatically.
Tip: When you first install anti-virus software on a device, run a 'full scan' of the system to ensure there are no pre-existing virus infections, and then set up regular scans.
Choosing anti-virus software
Anti-virus solutions differ in effectiveness and the range of malware types they cover. However, at a minimum, all anti-virus software should provide:
- protection and detection capabilities for malware, adware and spyware
- comprehensive anti-virus scanning.
Some anti-virus products may also include:
- a site advisor so your browser alerts you when visiting a suspicious or dangerous website
- malware protection with an integrated firewall. (If you install an anti-virus product with firewall functionality, you may need to disable your operating system's inbuilt firewall. See your anti-virus and operating system vendor for more details).
Before choosing an anti-virus product, consider reviews on reputable and trustworthy websites or in magazines.
What to do if things go wrong
- If you're unfortunate enough to be a victim of malicious software, see our malware, ransomware or restoring your data pages for more information and advice on recovering your computer and valuable files.
- Seek technical advice from your anti-virus vendor or a reputable technician.
- If you believe your banking details have been captured by malware, contact your bank or financial institution.
- If you think you've been a victim of identity theft, contact iDcare, a free government-funded service that can help.
Use the following resources to learn more about how to protect yourself online.