5 Easy Steps to Protect Your Computer in Under 1 Week
Today we’re going to step away from our usual topic of VPNs.
What I’m going to tell you today is the story of an Internet café administrator who managed to quash ALL malware in his system permanently and fully protect software on his computers in just 1 week.
And, despite having a very strict boss and his café being situated in a pretty dangerous part of the city, not only did he keep his job but also managed to achieve profits growth.
And he did it on virtually no budget.
This is the story of Derek.
Derek is a 21-year-old art student who works part-time as an administrator in a local Internet café. He’s not super technical-minded but it’s really hard to find a job that suits you if you have zero experience in our city, so he was happy to get this one.
But like I said, his café was situated in a rather shady neighborhood. All kinds of people would come to it and do all sorts of things with the help of its computers.
As you may imagine, Derek quickly found himself in the middle of a malware macabre, much to the chagrin of his (even less computer-literate than Derek himself) boss.
At that moment, Derek knew he had to do something.
That’s when he remembered his old college pal.
I first dropped by his café on Monday morning.
By Friday afternoon, Derek:
- managed to get rid of the malware already present on his PCs;
- got into his boss’s good graces and got a slight wage rise;
- upped the number of customers.
And as of two and a half months later, he:
- hasn’t run into a serious software problem since back then;
- significantly increased the number of customers;
- got a 15 percent wage rise.
For your convenience, here is a quick navigation menu:
Step 1. Antivirus to the rescue
Let me tell you a little bit about the café Derek works at.
There are fifteen computers in it. Prices are quite low so that locals can afford to visit it.
Sounds good so far.
But when Derek first arrived at his new job, he was, let me put it this way, shocked.
When he saw the state of the computers, poor Derek’s first desire was to simply burn them all to stop the spread of viruses.
And I must admit, it was not entirely ungrounded. It’s not often that one sees PCs so badly infested, and all in one place.
And as Derek’s first month or so went by, the situation only escalated. In fact, some of the computers wouldn’t even load because of all the malware accumulated on them (of course neither NordVPN app nor the other one wasn't installed).
Derek’s boss wasn’t understanding of it at all. He wasn’t very knowledgeable about software (or hardware, for that matter). As soon as he caught wind of the impending spending on a repairman’s services, he immediately threatened to fire Derek, should a free solution not have been found ASAP.
Yes, the situation looked dire for Derek.
However, following my advice, he was able to overcome this problem.
First of all, he had to scorch the viruses from the system.
And for that, he needed an antivirus.
The problem was, Derek had no money to spare on it.
Luckily, it is very much possible to save on cybersecurity. There are quite a few free antivirus options for people short on money like Derek.
While Derek went with Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition, and it worked great, you might want to refer to this comprehensive comparison at Tom’s Guide for more.
You must not forget, however, that using more than one antivirus at the same time is not a good idea. If you do, there will be conflicts between the two programs.
An interesting tidbit: this happens because each antivirus thinks the other one is malware.
Besides, even one piece of antivirus software can sometimes be taxing on your CPU. Having two runnings simultaneously may cause your PC to crash.
Another thing Derek did here was he set up the antivirus to be always on to prevent any future risks. Bitdefender is a good option here as it is pretty lightweight and doesn’t slow a computer down.
Step 2. CPR for your PC
But that wasn’t the end. As you may remember, there were several PCs that were unable to start.
And obviously, Derek couldn’t download and run Bitdefender on those computers.
Does it mean that they were as good as lost?
Using one of the cleansed PCs in the café, Derek got a free bootable antivirus on a USB flash drive. With it, he managed to scan for and destroy malware on those not responding to computers.
What “bootable” means is that such a program can be executed as if instead of the computer’s operating system. This is very useful if the OS is unable to be loaded properly, as was the case with a few of Derek’s PCs.
There is a requirement for using this method: you need to have a thumb drive or a CD/DVD.
My recommendation is a USB flash drive because not every computer nowadays even has a CD or DVD drive. Most modern laptops don't have them, thus, it's necessary to protect your Mac and Windows device.
Derek’s bootable antivirus of choice was Comodo Rescue Disk but feel free to check this Lifewire’s review to find one that suits you best.
It’s very easy to make a flash drive with bootable antivirus. All Derek had to do was to:
- download an ISO file of the antivirus,
- get an empty USB drive,
- download an ISO-to-USB tool. I recommend using one literally called ISOtoUSB as it is free and easy to use,
- install it,
- launch it,
- choose the antivirus ISO file in the top box. For Derek, it was in the Downloads folder but for you, it may be in whatever folder you download it to,
choose the flash drive in the middlebox,
check the “Bootable” box and click on “Burn”.
The process didn’t take him more than twenty minutes.
After it was done, Derek inserted his flash drive into the affected computer and pressed the power button.
He wanted to enter the setup menu, so he pressed the corresponding button as soon as this message appeared:
Note that the required button itself may be different for you. You also have to be pretty quick here because this message will shortly disappear if you don’t press the button.
Then Derek chose the Boot menu (it may also be called Startup).
His thumb drive was under the Removable Devices directory.
Using the + key, he moved his flash drive to the top of the list.
Now all he needed to do was save and exit.
Next time Derek rebooted his computer, instead of Windows, Comodo Rescue Disk started. Windows needs protection because of its vulnerability.
As I have said earlier, I like this antivirus for how straightforward it is. Just look at the menu:
See? Pure simplicity.
I recommend going for the full scan. However, if you are feeling certain that you know what the exact location of your problem is, you can choose the custom scan. Its benefit is that it takes less time.
Of course, you may use another free bootable antivirus. In that case, the process will be the same up to the point where you reboot your computer after changing the boot order.
After that, it will vary a little bit. However, most antiviruses have similar settings to Comodo.
If you happen to run into any difficulties, just check out the official website of that program and you will find either a manual on how to set it up, an FAQ section, or a live chat in which you can ask your question. (Sometimes, even all three of them—so the choice is yours!)
Step 3. Blocking the ports and protecting the tunnels
Here we are not going to speak about HBO, Kodi, or Netlfix blocking.
At this point, Derek was really amazed by how easy it was to protect his computers.
With these initial steps taken, there was still a long way to go.
Yes, Derek’s computers were now protected from external threats from the Internet. But the Web wasn’t the only possible source of malware.
You see, Derek’s clientele was rather careless about their online security not only in his café but also at their homes or whatever other places they accessed the Internet from.
And naturally, sometimes they brought malware along.
So our next step was to prevent viruses from entering through USB ports.
As you remember, Derek’s boss had provided no budget for saving his own café. So Derek had to look for free solutions again.
But as I always say, there’s no causation between free and bad, only correlation. With that said, it is absolutely possible to find a good utility program to keep your ports safe.
By this time, Derek took to cybersecurity like a duck takes to water. Once he saw his problem was solvable, his confidence grew immensely.
Derek chose software called USB Disk Security. There are several great things about it:
- it’s super easy to use;
- it provides very reliable protection;
- it’s totally free!
It scans all USBs on insertion and allows you to do a more complete scan if you so desire. It also allows you to turn off auto-launch for thumb drives, which you should do to maximize your security.
I can almost hear you asking: “But didn’t you say that it’s a bad idea to install two antiviruses at the same time?”
Of course, I did.
But the thing is, USB Disk Security is not an antivirus.
It is an extra program designed to work in accord with one so conflicts aren’t likely to happen.
However, there’s a small chance they still may.
Actually, Derek was one of the unlucky ones as Bitdefender thought USB Disk Security was a virus.
If it does happen to you too, you might want to mark USB Disk Security as an exception in your antivirus.
It’s not hard to do. I’ll use the example of Bitdefender (as that’s what Derek used) but this process is similar for most antiviruses.
First, he went to the Protection window (accessed by the shield icon). Then, in Antivirus settings, he clicked on the Exclusions tab.
To add USB Disk Security to the exclusions list, Derek chose the Processes tab. In the following menu, he clicked Browse and found the directory he had installed USB Disk Security to.
He chose the .exe file specifically, checked the Allow box, and then simply clicked Add.
It solved the problem, and now his USB ports were secure as well.
There’s no need to exclude your antivirus from the UDS list, as no conflict can arise here.
Another problem remained. Derek’s customers would often access torrents from his café. Naturally, the ISP wasn’t happy about that and would slow the connection speed down whenever it noticed it. And that’s not to mention the possibility of torrent poisoning and legal prosecution!
Unfortunately, Derek couldn’t just set up a parental control sort of deal and block access to these websites, as the café depended on those customers. So my advice to him was to conceal the traffic by using a VPN.
Now, if you’ve been reading our site, you probably know that it isn’t really advisable to use a free VPN for torrenting. Speed is usually too low, and ads can be just as annoying.
Naturally, the best VPNs for torrenting are paid ones.
So what did Derek do?
Well, he gambled.
He got CyberGhost VPN for one month and paid for the subscription with his own money (which he was running out of by that point). It was a risky move, as there would likely have been difficulties with getting a refund, had his plan not worked and had Derek been fired (and likely banned) from the café.
Luckily, it did work.
As CyberGhost VPN, being one of the best VPN services around, allows for 7 simultaneous connections, Derek managed to protect almost half of the PCs with just one subscription. Now the ISP couldn’t see what the customers were doing and tamper with their speed.
And Derek’s boss could charge more for using these seven “dedicated to torrenting” computers. In fact, he was so impressed that he gave Derek a bit of a bonus which more than recompensed his gamble.
VPN services gain popularity on a daily basis. Thus, the number of people using this technology grew by 165% in 2017-2018.
Step 4. Put your mind in the update state
Few people like updating their software.
No wonder: it’s annoying when it gets in your way. For example, you’re working on the annual balance when your OS decides it just has to download and install what feels like 20GB worth of updates, and it has to do it right now.
As you might imagine, most of Derek’s regulars did not like updates as well. In fact, they hated them with passion and took measures to prevent them from happening.
And it was one of the reasons why the café was in the poor state it was.
It may seem like a small thing but it isn’t. Updating is extremely important to protect your computer.
One of the largest ransomware attacks of recent time, WannaCry, was so successful due to using a vulnerability present in unpatched versions of Windows. Thousands of machines were blocked and the work of thousands of people was paralyzed only because those PCs ran on outdated software.
Unpatched software is a huge target for malware for one more reason. Not only is it unable to stop any advanced attack, but a recent patch itself can be reverse-engineered by criminals to find exactly what vulnerabilities it fixes.
Derek found updating Windows quite easy. To do that, he only needed to go to Microsoft.com and choose the Windows tab.
And then he simply clicked that big Update Now button. Very straightforward.
But that was the easy part. After all, any given computer only had one operating system to patch.
But exploits and vulnerabilities can be present in any piece of software.
And while remembering to update one’s antivirus and Virtual Private Network app is not too hard, depending on the number of programs one has, updating each of them manually can take a long time and it would be easy to miss one or two.
Thankfully, Derek didn’t have to do it all manually.
He used a simple but powerful free app called Patch my PC Updater. What it does is it allows you to update a wide range of programs all in one button press.
After he downloaded this app, all Derek had to do was:
- install it,
- launch it,
- and wait for about five seconds for it to scan the computer.
Then he clicked Perform Updates, and the program did all the heavy lifting for him.
Patch My PC also has a pretty comprehensive settings menu where it is possible to decide how often you want it to update your software and when.
It was very convenient for Derek because he managed to set the routine to the hours when the café was closed so that updates didn’t interfere with the customers’ browsing.
If you would prefer a different app, you can check out this roundup by Techradar to find one more to your liking.
Now, with the regularly updated antivirus, flash drive guard, and VPN, computers in Derek’s café were protected quite well.
However, one part of the equation still was unsolved. I’m speaking about the customers.
Step 5. Human factor, or How to make customers listen
The technical stuff was easy enough.
But the real problem was people. The people who out of malice or ignorance kept visiting dangerous websites, downloading and executing suspicious files, forgetting safety advice that even kids should know, and turning off the antivirus.
Even though there’s no app Derek could install to change the way his customers behaved, he could talk to them.
And he did.
Despite some of them being quite rough characters, they took his request to follow safety guidelines well.
As in, they said, “okay, sure.”
That wasn’t quite enough. Seeing the new, safer environment of the café, the customers tried to keep it safe but didn’t always succeed. Sure, now their mistakes cost Derek far less than before but he still strived for perfection.
He needed something to always remind his customers not to be reckless when online. Something that would make sure they behaved but not annoy them.
Derek’s idea was to make a message pop up every time a customer did something potentially dangerous telling them not to. However, it would’ve been too tricky to think of every such possibility. Besides, it definitely would’ve been annoying: think of Turbo VPN that shows you ads every time you attempt to reconnect.
Nevertheless, he was on the right track. My advice was to make it less intrusive but memorable by making wallpapers and screensavers work for that purpose.
And after a month or so, Derek noted that there were substantially fewer viruses.
For several reasons:
- wallpapers were always there when a customer started with their tasks;
- they were eye-catchy—Derek made them himself, and he was an art student!
- they each listed just a tip or two and would change every day so users weren’t overwhelmed with information.
This practice proved popular among the locals: the number of customers grew by almost 15 % in two months!
As did Derek’s wage because his boss was very impressed with his results.
And that’s exactly how Derek managed to turn that malware paradise of an Internet café into a thriving and safe enterprise in just one week.
Thanks to that, he made an impression on his boss and got a wage rise of 15 % in two months’ time.
He hadn’t thought it was possible, but he proved himself wrong by following these 5 easy steps.
No matter how infected your PC is, you can do the same and possibly more, be it at your home or in your workplace!