Regardless of industry, Indianapolis businesses all have an inherent need to protect data and information technology (IT) investments and avoid rampant security threats. With more and more business being conducted online and on-the-go, it’s more important than ever for businesses to minimize the risk of computer infections or data breaches. Malware, which refers to hostile software including viruses, spyware, scareware and other malicious programs, is one of the biggest threats.

Indianapolis businesses that arm associates with computers, laptops or tablets should also arm them with knowledge on avoiding malware. Doing so will ensure companies’ IT investments are protected, as well as data and private information.

Use complex passwords

Changing passwords is the simplest way to become more secure online. When it comes to passwords, the name of a pet or the numerals of a birthday simply will not suffice. Passwords should be a minimum of eight characters and contain letters, numbers and characters. Even though using easy-to-remember personal information can be appealing, opt for something that is not easily identifiable, and utilize different passwords for different accounts. To remain secure over time, change passwords regularly and never have websites remember login info. While fast login is convenient, it is dangerous if a company computer is stolen or misplaced.

Become a smarter surfer

Anyone can publish information to the internet whether it is accurate or not. On that note, while many hyperlinks within websites appear to be legitimate and safe, some are not. As a general rule of thumb, do not click on hyperlinks that pop up from any websites. If there is a particular website you wish to browse, type the web address in the browser to guarantee the correct website is accessed. Assuming a hyperlink will lead to the correct website can be dangerous. Hyperlinks contained within an email message can redirect users to fraudulent, fake or unauthorized websites.

In addition, while it might seem like common sense, it’s good to remember that emails or websites that promise a prize or money are often unsafe. Avoid clicking on surveys that promise a free phone or $1,000, for example.

Watch what you download

Avoid downloading and installing anything that appears untrustworthy. The following sources are popular vehicles for malware and should be avoided in many cases.

Website pop-up alerts: Sometimes pop-ups will falsely tell users their machine is infected with a virus or that updates are needed. If a user clicks on the alert, he or she might be asked to install software that is malware in disguise.

Website ads: Just because an advertisement appears on a legitimate website does not mean it is necessarily safe. Often when a user clicks on the advertisement, or even clicks on the “close” button, something called a drive-by download is initiated and malware is installed. For this reason, it’s best not to close advertisements, but rather, “X” out of the website altogether when ready to leave.

Free games: Candy Crush fans in search of the next addictive game, be weary. Many pop-ups advertising free games are just designed to install malware. Even if the application is functional, it still could install dangerous malware onto a computer.

Media players: A popular source of malware is a website media player download. When a user wants to play a video, the website will ask to install a video codec or other required software. When a user installs the application, malware is also installed and the video may or may not play.

In the event an associate unwittingly downloads viruses or malware, immediate action must be taken. First, disconnect from the network by turning off Wi-Fi and immediately notify a system administrator. That person will likely want to run a reputable anti-virus software scan on the affected system.

If associates have any questions about what is and is not safe to download, click or play online, they should always be encouraged to ask a company’s IT representative. Doing so ensures that a company’s investment in IT software and hardware is protected and so is associate and company data.

David Eckel is the managing partner of enVista, a global supply chain consulting and IT services firm in Carmel.