Most of this stuff is common sense, however, for those newcomers to the scene or anyone wanting to brush up on their knowledge, this short article will show you a few important, yet easy ways to make sure that your computer, data and personal information is as safe and secure as possible. Most of this advice is also very relevant on Android, Windows and iOS mobile devices.
Make Sure Your Computer’s Operating System is Fully Up to Date.
The first and one of the most important things you need to make sure you do is keep your computer’s operating system fully up to date, be it Windows, iOS or Linux. The good thing about this is that most operating systems will do this for you automatically, however, on the odd occasion problems do arise. In order to start a manual check for updates, you can type "Windows Update" into your start menu or search bar and select the option to "Check for Updates" On iOS just click the "Apple" button and choose "Software Updates".
Note: If you are using an older Operating system like Vista or Windows 7 it's highly recommended you upgrade as soon as possible as Windows is not releasing any more security updates, which will expose your PC to new dangers.
Make Sure Your Antivirus, Firewall, and Malware Protection are Up to Date.
As well as keeping your Windows OS fully up to date you should also always keep your antivirus, firewall and malware protection up to date. These are crucial components in keeping your system data and personal information safe. They will also make sure your system runs smoothly. If you are currently in the process of looking for new software to protect your system below are a few good options to consider and come quite highly rated.
Malware Protection: Malwarebytes and/or AdwCleaner.
Antivirus: AVG or Avast (Avast recently acquired AVG)
If you have any of the above programs already, updating them is as easy as right-clicking on the icon and selecting update. Occasionally you will need to update to a new version completely however you will be notified when they come into existence.
Take Caution When Opening Your Emails and Using Browser Extensions.
This may seem like common sense, yet email attachments are one of the most common ways for your computer or mobile device to be infected with a virus, malware, ransomware, or a keylogger.
The first thing you need to do before opening an email is ask yourself “Am I expecting anything like this?” “Does my bank officially email me” If at any stage you are unsure you can contact the institution and find out before opening the email.
Note: Also beware of phishing scams which trick you into thinking you have entered your information into the legitimate website when it's actually a carefully constructed clone. This is one of the most common ways for a person or persons to steal your banking information.
Emails that include .exe file attachments have the biggest chance of containing a security risk, so make sure you are 100% certain of the sender and are aware of the incoming file, you can always text or call your friend to double check they actually sent it to you. If you do receive a .exe file in an email and don’t know its origin, delete it straight away without opening it.
Another clever little trick you can try is to show the file extension of a file: For example, an image file will generally show as “image.jpg” However, if you have file extension hidden you’ll only see “Image” The sneaky Malware and Virus creators love to take advantage of this little loophole to hide executable files. They may call an executable file “Image.jpg.exe” which will show up in your file explorer as “Image.jpg” as the full file name is hidden so you won't see the file as it truly is a .exe.
To change the setting on your computer allowing you to see the full name and extension of the files open your File Explorer, go to the top of your screen and select "View", on the right-hand side tick the box that says “File name extensions”
Make Sure That You Are Using Secure and Different Passwords.
Another seemingly obvious security tip but one that is quite often ignored. Making sure that your passwords are strong and differ between each of your logins. If you use a weak password for one site it can be easily hacked and the information gathered can be used later to penetrate other accounts you might be using in other services.
Some things to remember when creating passwords.
- Your password should have a minimum of 12 Characters, you can go less but something between 12 and 14 is advised. Anything over this is better obviously.
- Make sure you Include, Symbols, Capital Letters, Lower-Case Letters, and Numbers. Also, mix up the different types of characters, don’t put all the numbers at the start or the ending.
- Try not to use words from the dictionary in your password. As words are easy to hack an example of this is: “Grass” or “GreenGrasses” both of these are easy to hack. Something better would be “GrE3ngra5s3s!”
- Don’t swap out o with a 0 either it’s a little too obvious.
The Most Important Part: Backing up Your Data.
This step is just as important as all the others that come before it. Making sure you have a backup of all your data is essential, especially for documents and one of a kind files like photographs. You can always replace programs, games, and software. Replacing files and images is another game altogether. You can use the cloud to store backups however if you truly want your data secured you should store it on a local device that can be disconnected from your computer and encrypted depending how important the data is.
We have a guide on how to Encrypt and hide files here.
Note: Try not to backup apps and programs as you can accidentally copy an infected program. Just stick with documents, photos, videos.