Viruses and malware are the bane of the 21st century. The virus and malware industry is almost as big as the software industry. Two decades ago, the only way your computer could get infected was by downloading infected software. These days you can pick a virus from just about anywhere; from websites, email and social media, danger lurks everywhere and one wrong turn can cost you a fortune through stolen data, damaged files and ransom payments.

As with all ills, prevention is always better than cure. The best way to stay safe is to take steps to ensure your PC doesn’t get infected in the first place.

The following are five tips guaranteed to keep your computer safe:

1. Get an Antivirus

You must install an antivirus program especially if you are running Windows. Windows tends to be more susceptible to attack as opposed to other operating systems such as OSX and Linux. Linux distributions are the most safe due to a unique architecture and little interest shown by cyber criminals. And, don’t get a cheap or free antivirus. Good products cost money, usually between $25 and $50 a year. Not much of an investment to stay safe. To find out if a product is worth buying, do some web research. Find out what other people are saying about the product by reading tech blogs and forums. Also, visit antivirus testing sites to see the product’s test scores. Once you install and antivirus, ensure it is always up-to-date so that its virus detection database is the latest release from the security firm.

2. Update Your Software

There are a number of reasons people fail to update their software. But, the most common reason is that they simply forget to do so since they haven’t set their systems to update automatically. Other people are on limited monthly data plans while others have plans that throttle their connection once they hit a certain threshold. Whatever the reasons, it is dangerous to run your PC on outdated software. Updates do two things. First, they introduce new software features and second, they patch security holes that the software manufacturer has identified. So, set your PC to update automatically once an update becomes available.

3. Use Chrome or Firefox

If you are still using an old version of Internet Explorer, you are asking for trouble. Chrome and Firefox were built with security in mind. If you really want to stay safe you can configure your browser not to load scripts though you may not be able to view some websites well. Many techies use Chrome or Firefox which should tell you they are onto something about security.

4. Get Anti-malware software

What’s the difference between antivirus software and anti-malware software? It’s the million dollar question. To answer this question, you first need to understand what viruses and malware are. A computer virus is a piece of code that replicates itself in order to cause damage to your computer. Malware on the other hand is a term that encompasses a broad range of malicious programs including spyware, ransomware, trojans, worms, adware and viruses. So, to put it simply, a virus is malware but not all malware are viruses. So, while an antivirus will keep you safe from a computer virus, malware will protect your from all types of malicious code.

5. Common Sense is the Best Policy

Suppose you received an email informing you that you had won the lottery and asking you to click a link to claim your winnings. If you click the link knowing very well you haven’t participated in any lottery, you will soon regret your action. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Many times it just takes common sense to keep your PC safe. Don’t download email attachments from people you don’t know or click links in emails from unknown senders.

Then, there is social media. If a friend sends you a link to a story that seems highly unlikely, don’t click on it. For example, “aliens land in the White House. Hold President hostage”. Highly unlikely.

Also, you may get a sudden pop-up flashing on your screen telling you that your computer is infected by a serious virus and you must download a security product immediately. Nope, don’t. That could be an attack vector.

The above tips will minimize the risk of infection to a great extent. But, you may still catch something even after following these tips. If you do, don’t panic, there are ways and tools to clean an infected PC.