It’s easy to keep your guard down online because it seems that nothing bad can happen to you out there. However, internet surfing is not as innocent as that. Obviously, you can’t get physically harmed online, but you can still get in trouble. For example, cybercriminals who desperately want to get hold of your personal data can plant malicious software on your devices to get it, which can eventually lead to you losing your money. Given all that, it makes sense to educate yourself on how to protect your computer and your data if you don’t want to fall victim to viruses and hackers.
|How do you know that a device is already hacked?Before we start, here are some common signs to look out for in case your computer, phone, tablet, or other devices you want to protect from malware is already affected by it:Slower device performanceMissing or unsolicited filesSuspicious redirects in the browserNew unknown software installedSuspicious pop-upsFrequent system errors or crashesRandom voluntary device activityIf you see any of these signs, you may want to change passwords on your social media, email, your devices, and any apps/websites that have access to your money. Besides, you’ll need to disconnect your device from the internet and scan it for malware. For a full list of actions to take, in case you’ve been hacked, you can refer to the article in the link. You can also use a malware analysis tool to find out what exactly your particular type of cyber threat has done to your device.|
Step 1: Use antivirus software
When it comes to learning how to keep your computer secure from viruses and hackers, antivirus software is always high on the list since it’s the very tool that helps us find, quarantine, and delete malware from our devices (spyware included).
Today, most computers and laptops, regardless of their operating system, have antiviruses built-in, which means that you’re somewhat safe online. However, some people think that built-in antivirus options are not enough and thus prefer to get one of the best antivirus protection products on the market to run it on their devices instead.
For phones and tablets, you shouldn’t bother about antiviruses if you only install apps from Google Play or App Store since these app sources don’t let malware anywhere near your devices.
Step 2: Update your everything
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Software updates don’t just add features and change apps’ design. Software developers continuously improve their products, which sometimes means that they find critical vulnerabilities and remove them through software updates. For example, in July 2021, Apple released an update that patched up a zero-day vulnerability in iOS called CVE-2021-30807. Exploiting this vulnerability, hackers could run arbitrary code with kernel privileges, which basically means that they could take control of any iPhone. To avoid exposing yourself to attacks brought about by software vulnerabilities, you can make your device and all your apps update automatically.
Step 3: Don’t be lazy with passwords
- 8 characters minimum
- Lower- and uppercase letters
- Special characters
- No dictionary entries (of any language)
- No personal info like birthdays or usernames
- No low-hanging fruit like number or keyboard sequences
- No recurring passwords
These golden rules aren’t there just to annoy you: they intend to make your password difficult to guess in brute-force attacks. But besides brute-force attacks, hackers steal passwords, which is something no complex password rule can avoid. So, it makes sense to regularly check if your password has been leaked.
Naturally, the more passwords you have and the more complex they get, the less sensible it is to rely on your memory, which is why you can use a reliable password manager. It can help you keep track of all your passwords, suggest new complex passwords for new accounts, and even notify you if your passwords were leaked.
For your most important accounts, it also makes sense to use two-factor authentication, which presupposes additionally using SMS or email to double-verify users. It is considered one of the most secure access procedures to date because simply stealing passwords wouldn’t cut it anymore.
Step 4: Be wary of your mic and camera
Your camera and mic can come in handy not only in Zoom meetings and not only to you. Hackers can get access to your video and audio feeds and thus get hold of sensitive information and severely breach your privacy. This is the main reason why some people prefer to keep microphones and cameras turned off and only use them while, say, video conferencing.
Although you probably won’t record video using your computer’s webcam, you may sometimes need to make an audio or screen recording on your computer. The safest way to do it is by using a standard dedicated app built into your operating system (like Voice Recorder and Game Bar by Windows or QuickTime Player by Apple). But if you feel like those apps aren’t very well equipped for these tasks or just aren’t that exciting to use, you can resort to an online audio recorder or an online screen recorder. These two apps are secure, so if you decide to use a different online recorder, make sure to check that it guarantees data protection.
Step 5: Become a fan of encryption
Encryption is one of the ways to protect data that relies on encoding information. This means that only you and the website you’re interacting with know what exactly the interaction is about. To secure your computer and yourself, you should only browse websites that use encryption (those that have “https” at the beginning of their address or a closed padlock icon next to it). Some messaging apps like WhatsApp or Telegram also use encryption, which makes them a much safer choice for your communication.
It also makes sense to use a VPN that encrypts all data fed from your computer and provides you with a secure connection to the server you need. VPNs can even make it look like you’re browsing the net from any location you choose. The main advantages of using a VPN are data protection and privacy from internet service providers, governments, apps, and services you use or anyone who’s using the same public Wi-Fi as you are.
Step 6: Stay alert
Obviously, the five ways to protect computers listed above aren’t the only steps you need to take on the road to staying secure online. There are many more, for example:
- If using public Wi-Fi, you should mark the network as public while connecting to it as well as use a VPN and a firewall.
- While reading through your emails, you should always look out for phishing attempts that use links to fake websites aimed to steal your login data for those websites.
- If getting a call from ‘the bank’ where an employee is trying to get you to tell them, say, your mobile banking password, you should never disclose any sensitive info like that.
- Never use flash drives of unknown origin.
Typically, all these measures can be boiled down to this: you need to stay alert, have all needed protection software, know how to protect your computer if things go south, and never fully trust everything you hear or see. It may seem daunting at first but, with time, you’ll get the hang of it.
Stay secure and good luck!