Back in the days when there was no internet, including the first years after the World Wide Web had become a thing, there were hardly any computer threats to talk about. The most that could happen was getting your data stolen by someone who already had access to your computer or networks of computers. Viruses, worms, and such nuisances were unknown to most people, after all, there wasn’t much to steal from or to damage.
This is so because most people didn’t have computers, and many more didn’t know what the heck they were all about. But as computers became ubiquitous and a common feature of our everyday lives, the maleficence of threats such as malware, and crypto worms has become all too common.
Cybercriminals are always looking for vulnerabilities to exploit and it is up to you, the computer user, to be the first line of defense against any threats. In this article, we will share with you 8 tips and tricks to keep your computer safe from hackers and malware. If properly implemented, these will help eliminate 99 percent of all threats that exist out there.
Use a Strong Password
Unauthorized access is one of the major problems for anyone using computers, smartphones, and tablets. A successful break-in can result in the loss of valuable data, such as identification information, transaction history, contacts, and emails. Moreover, the victim’s computer can be used for nefarious purposes, such as being a launch pad for illegal activities, in which case, the victim could find themselves in legal trouble.
You require a strong password to guard against unauthorized entry and as you have probably learned from filling online forms, strong passwords have several characteristics. They involve a combination of upper and lower case letters, they have a number or two, and have several characters. Most importantly, they are long.
If you are unable to generate strong passwords, you can use a password manager for that. Here are some advantages of using a password manager:
- You never have to worry about forgetting your password with a password manager.
- Your password will always be long and strong.
- The password manager will autofill online forms for you.
- You can have as many passwords as you want.
- Easily manage shared accounts.
Whether or not you are able to afford a password manager, always make sure that it is hard for anyone to guess your password. Don’t use familiar names, and certainly don’t use a relative’s phone number or their name as part of your password. That way anyone will have a hard time guessing it.
Install an Anti-malware Software
Having an antivirus program on your computer might seem like the first line of defense against threats to your computer and devices, but the truth is, many people don’t consider installing one. They are super important, and if you could, we recommend that you buy one from a premium vendor. You might also want to install Mac and PC cleaning software. These repair tools will scan your computer for malware, boost its speed, delete junk files, and protect your data.
To be through, secure all other electronic devices in your possession. If they are Android devices, use Android cleaner apps and if not, use the appropriate apps. The less points of weakness you have, the better.
Keep Your Software Up-To-Date
The software running on your computer is routinely updated to fix bugs that could potentially be used by hackers to launch attacks. Zero-day attacks (as such attacks are called) are very pervasive. For instance, in 2017, there were 49 zero-day attacks, which was a 600% increase from the previous year. It is also reported that in 2016, the Zero Day Initiative discovered 135 vulnerabilities in Adobe products, 76 in Microsoft products, and about 50 in Apple’s products.
Without updating the software provided by any of these vendors, you run the risk of being a target of a crippling cyber-attack. Now, the most important software that you should always keep up to date is the operating system. Here is how to check for Windows 10 updates:
- Open the Start menu and click on Settings > Update & Security settings.
- Press the Check Updates button.
- If any updates are available for your device, install them.
It is also equally important to keep your browser updated to the latest version. The browser is your window to the world and if it contains bugs, a hacker can use them as a gateway to infecting your computer with malware or worse, steal your data.
Don’t Use Pirated Software
No matter how enticing it is to use pirated software, know that they pose grave security threats to your computer. Pirated software cannot be easily updated for fear of detection, which means that they come with many vulnerabilities. Not to mention, they are sourced from questionable sites and databases. It is very common to hear of pirated software that are packaged together with destructive and hard to detect malware.
Cybercriminals love working with pirated software because it is easier to ask victims to disable their anti-malware programs as part of the installation process. Don’t fall victim to the ruse, and no matter how expensive a particular software product is, do the right thing and buy from the vendor.
Don’t Click Links on Emails from Unknown Senders
If you receive an email in your inbox and you are not sure who the sender is, it is best to investigate first before making any rash decisions. Cybercriminals have perfected the art of enticing users with very irresistible deals as part of what cyber security experts call phishing attacks. Clicking on a link on such an email can lead to a malware being embedded in your system or lead to a site with poor security credentials.
To guard against falling victim to such attacks, always look to confirm whether the deals are real or if the information contained in the email is correct. Say you receive an email claiming that Amazon has amazing deals, go to Amazon and confirm before doing anything else. It turns out that the email is misleading, notify your email service- they will be rightly labeled as spam.
Confirm a Site’s Security Credentials
Not all sites are safe to visit and some don’t even encrypt the data that you exchange with them. They make it very easy for hackers to intercept your communications and to use that information against you. You need to ascertain the security credentials of a site before sharing information with it. Here is how to do just that:
Look for the S in HTTPS
URLs that begin with “https” as opposed to “http” are encrypted. The data that you send over them is safe and cannot be intercepted by cybercriminals.
Find the Contact information
A site with contact information gives the assurance that the owners have nothing to hide and are ready to answer any questions if prompted.
Verify the Site’s Trust Seal
It is likely that you have seen the words “Verified” and “Secure” on a site. They are indications that the site works with a security partner to protect your data. Whenever you visit a new site, especially one that requires some kind of transaction, always make sure that they have the security seal. That way, you can be sure that the details of your transactions are safe.
Use a Firewall
A firewall is a network security system that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic based on a set of security rules. It protects the computer from unwanted intrusions. Most computers have a firewall because it is enabled by default, but sometimes, it can be disabled by a malware.
You need to constantly check whether your firewall system is working and if not, turn it on. You are also required to check popups from your antivirus program because if your firewall is down, you will be notified.
Backup Your Computer
Despite your best efforts, you can still fall victim to cybercriminals. They can erase your data, infect your computer, damage your files, and cripple your networks. That is why you should always backup your computer.
There are several ways you could do that. First, you could create a system restore point that would restore your computer to an earlier functioning state as that way, no matter what happens, you can recover its performance capability. Alternatively, you can create copies of your most important files and upload them on Google Drive or Dropbox, whichever cloud service you prefer. Finally, you could have them stored in an external hard drive, where they can easily be accessed.
And that closes our list of 8 tips and tricks to keep your computer safe from hackers and malware. Of course, there are many more PC tips and tricks, but when diligently observed, the eight will go a long way in keeping your computer safe and secure.