Online security myths: You only get a virus by visiting a dodgy website

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Stethoscope on laptop - Computer repair and maintenance concept

If only this were true! Yes, visiting a dodgy website can infect your computer, but so can visiting a legitimate site, as hackers can insert malware into the ads running there – it's called 'malvertising'.

Even Yahoo and Forbes have been victims of this.

Then there's 'click-bait'. These are headlines, often posted on social networking sites, with a story or offer that tempts you into clicking them. Like an airline giving away free flights or headlines like 'You'll never believe what happened when...'. Once you click these links, you can be infected.

Of course, you can also catch a virus by clicking a link in an email or opening an attachment. The rule here is, 'If you don't know the sender, don't open it'. Luckily, spam filters and junk folders are pretty good these days and will siphon these malicious messages away from your inbox. So be vigilant and suspicious of anything caught in these folders.

Back in the day, before the internet as we know it, all viruses were spread on floppy disks. And viruses can still spread in old-school fashion on external devices, such as USB keys and external hard drives. If you find such a device lying around, don't plug it into your machine to find the owner.

There's good news too

And that is there's one very simple way to avoid getting a virus – by using internet security software that includes anti-virus. This will stop you visiting potentially harmful websites and will protect you when you slip up and click links or open attachments which you shouldn't. A word of advice on this – avoid free software. Some of it doesn't work at all, some has limited capabilities and some offers no support.

Anti-virus is especially important for users of PCs, Android devices and Macs. Luckily, iPhones come with built-in anti-virus protection, though they do still require browsing protection to avoid visiting dodgy sites.

At TalkTalk, we offer all our customers SuperSafe Boost powered by F-Secure – a security package with eight device protection for the whole family's PCs, mobiles, tablets and laptops. Eight-device protection is FREE for Plus TV customers, and for all other customers it's £2 per month (and it's worth over £100 a year). You can also try it out on one device for free here.