It seems like every day the news is full of stories about the latest hack, crack or cyber attack, but there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
RUN YOUR SECURITY UPDATES.
Your best line of defence is to ensure you have the latest updates for your system, as newly discovered vulnerabilities are patched all the time. Unsure how? Check Microsoft’s site for Windows updates, and Apple’s site for Mac updates.
INSTALL A VIRUS SCANNER AND A MALWARE SCANNER.
There are many great products on the market that will protect your system from viruses, trojans and malware. Whichever one you select, make sure you keep it up-to-date. Look for comparison guides on reputable sites like tech blogs or magazines that are dated with the current year. Suggested search: BEST VIRUS SCANNER 2017
UPDATE YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM.
Windows XP was revolutionary in its day, but that was 2001 – 16 years ago. It was retired in 2009, and Microsoft stopped releasing security updates for the most part in 2014. You may still be using it out of habit, preference, or because upgrading your system is out of your budget. These are all valid reasons to want to keep using XP, but ask yourself if this computer really needs to be connected to the internet given the risks. A current O/S will receive regular security updates to patch vunerabilities are they are discovered.
BEWARE OF POP-UPS.
If you’re going about your business on the net and a message pops up telling you your computer is vunerable or compromised and to call a number to fix it, just close and ignore it. It’s a pop-up ad, not a real notification of a problem with your computer. The scammers on the other end of the line will charge you hundreds, and may even install malware on your machine. In general, anything that pops-up should be treated with suspicion.
OPEN THINGS IN EMAILS WITH CAUTION.
Don’t open attachments or follow links in emails from people you don’t know. Exercise caution in opening attachments or following links in emails from people you do know – if it seems odd or out of character, contact them and ask if they sent it to you. If companies you do business with send you unexpected messages, stop and look for clues that might give it away as a scam, like links to websites you wouldn’t associate with the business. When in doubt, look up contact details for the business and ask them if the message is genuine.
DON’T REUSE PASSWORDS.
It’s such a nuisance to keep track of different passwords for every thing you do online, but it’s quite important to make sure you don’t reuse the same password. Hackers have been known to hack one site and steal the username/email address/password combinations, and then sell that list to other hackers. You can’t trust every site to have perfect security.
USE GOOD PASSWORDS OR A PASSWORD MANAGER.
A good password is long, uses a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols, doesn’t contain your name or other details people can easily guess, and is memorable to you. This can be hard to achieve! A simpler way can be to use a password manager to remember all your passwords for you.
ASK FOR HELP.
If something seems iffy, don’t just put your trust in it. Your computer-savvy friend, family member or colleague might be able to give you some good advice. If you’re lacking a handy guru, reach out to a computer professional like a local computer shop or technician, or ask your ISP.