Operating systems have gotten pretty good at preventing viruses and other unwanted activity on your computer. The more visible sources of unwanted activity on our computers have also diminished a lot such as excessive pop ups and forged websites. This is mostly due to smarter web browsers and better indexing of websites.
While it is great that we no longer have to suffer from constant web spam and viruses at every corner it does mean that we tend to let our guard down a little more. This is a problem as there are still plenty of ways in which you system can be compromised. Most are sophisticated compared to the relatively primitive attacks of the internet’s early days. They also tend to be far more intrusive, aimed at gathering personal information rather than simply damaging your computer.
The best way to keep yourself secure is to develop good computer security habits. Here are five of the most important you should develop to keep your computer safe.
Your computer’s operating system forms the core of your defense against invaders. OS vendors have gotten much better at preventing, finding and resolving security flaws in their systems. Many of the updates your OS requires you to apply are security updates.
Whenever a new security update is available you should download and install it immediately. To save yourself a lot of time and worry you should set updates to download and install automatically.
Secure your Local Network
A common way your computer or home network may be accessed is thorough your home router. The first thing to do is to change your router’s default password especially if it is “password”. When setting up your router be sure to use the highest level of wireless encryption available. WPA is a more secure form of encryption than WEP but WEP is still much better than nothing.
Also, never transmit personal data such as bank details over a public network.
Choose a Good Password, then Change it
A common method of hacking into an account is a technique called brute forcing. This is where a computer program simply tries thousands of different combinations until it gets the right one. This can obviously take too long a time to be worth attempting but a small bit of information can narrow the hacker’s focus substantially. This is why even seemingly insignificant information such as your date of birth or address can be useful to hackers.
Never use personal information like dates of birth and addresses in your passwords. Use a variety of upper and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. A common format for passwords is two nouns and a two digit number such as “horsebucket17”. Avoid that type of format if possible and change your passwords regularly.
Use Encryption where Needed
If you have a document or information that you really do not want anyone other than the intended recipient to see then it might be worth taking the extra precaution of encrypting the data.
The professional editions of Windows 7 and 8 usually include Microsoft’s BitLocker which is an effective encryption program. Most smart phone operating systems also include an option to encrypt data stored on the phone.
Be Careful who you let use your Computer
No matter how well you know someone and how completely you trust them some people just have a knack for causing computer problems. Unless you trust the person and know them to be at least as competent with computers as you, it is best not to offer the use of your computer.
Just consider what happened to their own computer in the first place that they need to use yours.