Today, computers have become more important in our lives than ever before. This is due to a multitude of reasons. Because of this reality, viruses, spyware, adware, Trojan horses and identify theft, are all capable of making huge negative impacts on our day to day lives. No matter how experienced the user may be, the adoption of safe computing is a must, as it combines both software security, which entails security settings and physical protections. All of which are designed to provide ultimate security for the end user. Below you will find 11 tips that will ensure your system is protected along with any and all data you choose to store on it.
1. Back Up Your Data
Make sure you backup all the files on your system that you cannot afford to lose. When you have a backup plan in place, it will ensure that you are safe from any unexpected situations. The only thing you need think about, is the location you intend to store the data on. You can choose to store it on a USB stick, another hard drive, network location or a DVD. It’s very simple to get up and running.
2. Use Strong Passwords
A strong password contains a mix of both lowercase and uppercase letters, it should also combine spaces, numbers, symbols and special characters if permitted. An effective method of creating passwords is to use acronyms, ones that you can remember, but will be difficult for anyone else to figure out. You should never share any confidential data with anyone, and you want to use different passwords for every account that you create. You should also change your passwords at least once every six months.
3. Download Files Legally
Along with all of the legal implications of downloading illegal material off the internet. Downloading such things as movies and music files from peer-to-peer networks comes with its own risks. This is because many of them tend to be viruses in disguise.
4. Scan Email Attachments
If you want to keep your system free of viruses, then you should scan all attachments you receive. Viruses are most commonly distributed via emails that are sent from family and friends. Viruses deliberately send emails to contact lists of its victims, so as to fool unsuspecting people into clicking on and downloading these attachments. Fortunately, if you have an antivirus scanner, it will be able to scan and tell you whether or not the file is trustworthy.
If you receive an email from a friend or family member, and it contains a link, the first thing you should do, is hover over it, then look at the bottom bar of the screen, to determine where the link goes. This way you can determine whether or not to click on it, before making any commitment to go through to the site.
5. Use a VPN
Its best practice for you to use a VPN or virtual private network when connecting to the internet whether at work on a public machine. When you use a VPN, all data, sent to and from your system is encrypted, this ensures that cybercriminals will be unable to steal your data.
VPNs also have other advantages, such as they allow you to mask your identity, and also location.
6. Keep Your System Updated
With viruses forever evolving, it’s very important that computer users have antivirus software installed on their systems and kept up-to-date. Most antivirus programs you can purchase come with an automated update feature.
Whether you opt to update your operating system manually or through automated channels, it’s recommended that you ensure it’s always kept up to date – on a continuous basis. It’s also important that third-party programs are also kept up-to-date. Updates for your programs are usually created to plug up security vulnerabilities, as well as add new features, many of which may be security related.
7. Clean Out Your Files
When using and after using a public machine, it’s very important that you clean it of d, whether that be history files, temporary internet files, cookie files, cache files or files you deleted and are now in the recycle bin. It’s also important that existing cookies on the machine be removed before you start using the system, this way you can ensure that nothing you do on the system is recorded.
8. Remember Keyloggers
A keylogger is a program that is designed to record your key strokes. Computer hackers are known to load these little programs onto public machines, which they will then check back later on, without the computer owners knowing. This is why it’s important you never log into any important accounts, or purchase anything with your credit card number, as there is a good chance someone else may acquire that information – when on a public system.
9. Beware Of Portable Drives
When on a public machine, you should be careful when using a portable device, such as a USB stick. This is because computer hackers can load virus software onto these systems, which will automatically copy themselves to your portable device, the moment you plug them into the system. Other viruses are capable of stealing any data on your portable stick, which is then sent out to the hacker – so you want to avoid that.
10. Only Install Necessary Software
PuP or Potentially unwanted programs is basically software installed on your system that you yourself did not install. For this reason, you may want to consider removing them. PuPs usually come bundled with other programs, so when you install them, this other program is installed, one, you may not have consented to or may not necessarily need. These situations are more common today than ever before and occur for both freeware and paid programs. So it’s important you read the blueprint, and do not consent to any programs you do not need or want.
11. Use Anti-Virus Software
It’s very important that you first, have an antivirus program on your system, and second, you keep it up to date. Antivirus programs are designed to scan and detect malicious files that may be lurking on your system. It’s these malicious files that you want to keep away from your system, not just to protect your identify and sensitive data, but also to ensure the longevity of your system.
Uchenna Ani-Okoye is a former IT Manager who now runs his own computer support website www.compuchenna.co.uk