Viruses can delete or corrupt your files, steal passwords, or allow hackers to take over your computer. To minimise the risk of getting a virus:

  • Don't open emails from people you don't know
  • Don't open files unless you know exactly what they are
  • Keep your operating system up to date
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date and scan weekly
  • Install software that identifies risky websites, like McAfee Security
  • Back up all your important files

'Free' software

Watch out for software promoted as 'free' – before you download, make sure the website is trustworthy. It's much safer to go directly to the software provider's site and download from there.

Fake emails and attachments

If one of your contacts has a virus on their computer, you might get an email from them containing a virus. Be on the lookout for suspicious subject lines or anything odd-sounding in the email itself. When in doubt, check with your friend to see if they actually sent it.

Viruses on your mobile

The risk of getting a virus on your mobile is much lower than on your computer, but some operating systems, like Android, are still vulnerable.

There are several free apps you can download from the Google Play store to keep your Android mobile virus-free, including Avast!, Lookout and TrustGo.


Malware is short for malicious software, it can damage or delete your files, copy your passwords, or take over your computer to send illegal videos or spam emails.

Avoiding infection

There are several types of malware, including viruses, spyware, worms and Trojans.

Most malware is spread by people installing it accidentally. Sometimes, malware can install itself on a machine. To prevent this:

  • Install updates – all operating systems release regular patches designed to fix bugs and close security holes
  • Install anti-virus software – scan your computer regularly and make sure the software's virus definitions are up to date
  • Scan CDs, DVDs, memory sticks and external hard drives before using their programs or files
  • Use Microsoft Office's macro protection – some malware disguises itself as Word or Excel macros
  • Enable pop-up window blockers
  • Delete suspicious emails – don't read them or reply

Dealing with viruses and other malware

To check whether you have a virus, scan your computer with up-to-date anti-virus software.

If you find a virus, warn your contacts not to open any unusual emails they receive from you. After you delete a virus, always change the passwords to your online accounts.

More help and info

Find detailed security advice at Get Safe Online, or read up on viruses at McAfee at home.

If you're not sure about any techy terms, check out our jargon buster

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