You can buy all the fancy hardware and software applications to protect your computer and digital data, but if you don’t put yourself in check, you will remain the weakest link in the chain. That is something hackers have known for years; the easiest way to hack into a system is through the user.
They call it social engineering, where the hackers use deception and manipulation into convincing the user to give up useful confidential or personal information that they can use. The mistake most people do is to assume computer security is a technical and complicated thing. So much so that it would require an expert to keep it safe, or that people around them are just not that technical to warrant them getting worried.
Well, you will be amazed at just how simple some of these hacks are; God knows how many YouTube videos are there online offering a free tutorial on how to hack. You might want to think about that the next time you pull out your laptop in a public place like the library or coffee shop to work on their free public Wi-Fi (read unsecured Wi-Fi).
Below is a list of simple Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tips to keep your computer safe. And No! You don’t need technical skills to keep your device safe; it is more like using a common sense approach, and it will take you a long way.
#1 – Enable Auto Updates
Be it your Windows or Operating System or even your desktop application such as your browser, music player. Whatever it is, always enable auto update. Some zero-day vulnerabilities are so lethal and spread so fast that you might not have enough time to check for and install updates manually.
By enabling auto updates, you leave that job to the application(s) makers who are better positioned to know of emerging vulnerability first and fast. They then issue out a security patch, which will then be auto-updated on your system.
#2 – Use both Antivirus and Anti-Malware
Most people install an antivirus, and that is as far as they go. They are not proactive in checking the antivirus is running the latest virus engine updates or scans (full scan) their devices regularly. You should know no two antiviruses are the same, there are obviously some better than others, as you can see here in our list of best Windows antivirus.
Even if you got the antivirus part right, you need an additional layer of security, anti-malware. Most people make the mistake of thinking the antivirus and anti-malware are the same; if you got one, you don’t need the other. Wrong! Anti-malware is different from antivirus software and arrests malware trying to infiltrate your system that antivirus are typically not designed to arrest.
Just like antivirus, there are some anti-malware better than others, with Malwarebytes coming out highly rated by most security experts.
#3 – Use strong Passwords, but you can Automate them
Now to the part most people hate, passwords. They are meant to keep you safe, and the stranger they are the more secure. A combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, symbols, and space makes for a very strong password. The problem comes in remembering them, since writing them down somewhere is strongly not encouraged.
The hassle of remembering long and strong password makes most of us create a just one (or a couple of set of passwords) and use it interchangeably on various platforms. That too is highly discouraged. However, the hassle of remembering is real, but there are apps for that!
You can install one of the numerous password managers out there, but you need to be careful, as (again) these apps have a varying degree of privacy and user’s rights protection. One password manager, LastPass comes highly recommended by many security experts.
#4 – Check the safety of the Link before clicking it
Every once in a while you will be getting links sent to you via email, social media, or you find them somewhere online. If you are unfamiliar with the link, it is always prudent to check if it is safe to open before clicking on it. You can get more information about how to check the safety of a link before opening at our previous article.
#5 – Don’t Download and Run Pirated Software
This tip might come off as a no-brainer; there is nothing like free lunch. If someone seems kind enough to allow you use a software they did not create and one that would have required you to pay to use. Chances are they want to benefit from you using the software.
More often pirated software come with implanted codes that either spy on you, steal your information, use up your computer resources, or might be ransomware.
#6 – Avoid Popup Notifications
Again a no-brainer, avoid notification. If you go to a site and they are trying to do something you did not go there for in the first place, avoid it. You might have gone to a website to get some information, but all of a sudden a notification pops up telling you that your Flash is out of date and needs to be updated. Or your browser or a certain plugin needs to updated. Avoid clicking such popups.