With the increasing amount of time spent on mobile devices and desktop computers alike, it is more important than ever to practice responsible computer use. This includes making smart decisions regarding passwords and usernames, automated security programs, and risk-mitigating behavior. Sometimes this can be easier said than done, however, and it might seem like there are too many elements to adopt into your daily routine easily.
The truth is that while responsible computer users might not be the most convenient strategy to use, it is one of the most effective in terms of online safety. So, let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to keep your computer, your loved ones, and your information safe from harm.
1. Use a password manager
This tip is a significant one to consider. Most readers probably know that reusing passwords is a bad idea. However, it is less obvious that saving passwords and usernames directly in your browser is an equally poor action to take. In most cases, the information you save to your browser is far less secure than it needs to be to protect you from harm.
Free password managers such as LastPass are designed to keep your information safely stored behind a layer of encryption. They also make it easy to generate and use secure passwords that are strong enough to keep high-value accounts such as your favorite online casino protected.
2. Back up your information
Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts users’ access to their files for monetary gain. For example, criminals might lock you out of your computer and demand a certain amount of money to decrypt your files and give you access to your information, however, there is no guarantee that they will return access even if you pay.
A good option to help keep you safe in the event of a ransomware attack is a computer backup. When you regularly back up your information, you are much less vulnerable to the unreasonable demands of cybercriminals. You have the option of simply erasing your computer and restoring your settings and files from a backup. Note that for this strategy to be effective, you must store your backups outside of your computer. Consider a free account with companies like Google or DropBox, both of whom offer users free cloud storage space.
3. Invest in a firewall
If you plan on connecting to the internet, investing in a quality firewall should be your first concern. Whether you opt for a software or hardware firewall, their purpose is the same: to filter connections to your computer and keep your network and data safe from harm.
Software firewalls can be downloaded along with many antivirus programs. Most modern operating systems also include a built-in software firewall that is activated by default, although a standalone program might offer more comprehensive protection.
Hardware firewalls are a bit different. These physical products operate outside your computer and are available as either standalone products or as an integrated specification on your broadband router. This serves as an added layer of security in case your software firewall fails to block intruders.
Whether you opt for a software firewall, a hardware firewall, or both, the additional layer of security is critical for safe computer use.
4. Beware of suspicious emails
Phishing emails might seem like a thing of the past, but this could not be further from the truth. In fact, this kind of email is one of the most effective types of spam most users encounter. Due to the fact that phishing emails tend to be personalized with victims’ names and might even include basic information about their browsing habits, these emails seem to be legitimate correspondence from a company or individual. They are often tailored to users’ interests too, which further leads them the illusion of safety.
When users click on these emails or download attachments, they inadvertently install malware to their computers. The exact nature of the software varies from scam to scam, but none of them are harmless. Preventing this kind of attack requires careful attention to your inbox. Were you expecting an email from the person or entity attached to the emails in question? Does it make sense that they would be reaching out to you, and does the internet address itself seem legitimate?
When in doubt, Google the email address to see if anyone else has received a message and labeled it as spam. There are often forum posts or comments online that mention common spam scams – use this information to your advantage.
5. Keep your system updated
The bane of many computer users is the update process. The prompt to update your computer never seems to come at a convenient time, leading many to quickly click the “cancel” or “try again later” button without a second thought. The problem is that doing this can lead to a system that is dangerously out of date.
The importance of keeping your system updated is perhaps best illustrated via the WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017. Users across the globe who were running a Windows computer found themselves on the receiving end of one of the largest ransomware attacks in history.
Cybercriminals were able to pull this largescale incident off thanks to an exploit in which users who had failed to update their computers were particularly vulnerable. The security issue was recognized by Microsoft and patched months before the attack, but many users failed to update their systems promptly.
Keep your computer updated and follow best practices with regard to updates. Remember that you can schedule updates to automatically be installed overnight or during another time period where you know you will not be using your computer.
Using your computer might be second nature, but that does not mean you never need to rethink your habits. Follow the tips we describe in this article to ensure that not only is your personal information secure, but that your network is a safe place for your loved ones too.