Having a secure computer is more important than ever. Compared to just a few years ago, smartphones and computers have become an essential part of almost everyone’s daily lives. With the huge usage increase for computers and smartphones, hackers and cyber criminals have more opportunities to find vulnerabilities in your home and workplace computers and mobile devices. And with the more experienced computer hackers, it doesn’t matter if your operating system is Linux, Windows, Mac OS, or a smartphone counterpart.
The subject of computer security can get pretty complicated and most people simply want to just use their computers and not be concerned about additional software or worries about their systems. While there are many articles on Internet about keeping your business and personal computers safe, we wanted to share these 10 tips for a secure computer to give you a helpful starting point for securing your computer and data.
Are You Always Connected to the Internet?
If you operate a business such as website design, it’s necessary to be connected to the Internet all the time. There are other business types and people have personal reasons as well for staying connected to the Internet. However, if you don’t actually need to be connected at all times, it would be practical to turn off your Internet router for a while. Computer hackers look for security holes in connections and you if you occasionally turn off your router, your Internet connection frequency will appear sporadic, making it less attractive to hackers.
Keep Your Computer Updates Current!
We know this may seem like it’s just one more thing to do before you can enjoy using your computer, but it’s important. Ensure that the updates you receive from Apple and Microsoft are installed on your computer. These updates are things such as patches for their prospective operating systems and not installing them can leave your computer more vulnerable. However, as of April 18, 2014, Microsoft doesn’t provide patches for their Windows XP operating system; only to their enterprise clients and even they are paying a fee in order to continue to receive them. So, if your computer is running Windows XP, it’s extremely important that you have very good anti-virus software installed on your computer; preferably one that has strong encryption and firewall capabilities such as Symantec Norton 360. But, more about firewalls and anti-virus software below.
Does Your Computer Have a Really Good Firewall?
In relation to computers, a firewall is a hardware or software-based network security system that controls incoming and outgoing Internet traffic to and from your computer. Simply put, it’s a barrier between sites that you have set as trusted sites and unsolicited sites. It would be an oxymoron to use the built-in firewall on any computer that has a Microsoft Windows platform because Internet Explorer itself is a playground for hackers.
Is Your Router Secured With A Firewall?
When you sign up with most Internet service providers, they also include a modem that you connect directly to your computer or connects to your router if you’re using one. Not many Internet service providers automatically include a router, but you can purchase a router at minimal cost or add it to your service provider account. Connecting the provided modem to a router adds a layer of security, so make sure your router has a good firewall.
Anti-Virus Software – Do You Have It Installed?
In today’s computer age, anti-virus software is a must for computers. It’s unthinkable, but some people and even small businesses don’t have anti-virus software installed on their computers for various reasons; one reason being, is the fear the software will cause their computers to run slower. While this may be true for much older computers, imagine the consequences of not having installed anti-virus software – you visit a website and your computer gets infected.
Don’t Visit Unprincipled Websites
What we mean by unprincipled websites, we’re talking about pornographic websites and the like. While as an adult you follow your own moral compass, but as it relates to computers, these types of websites are usually riddled with worms that can easily infect your computer the second you land on one of their web pages.
Use A Respectable Web Browser
Even with its recent fiasco, some people are still insistent upon using Internet Explorer browser. Stop the insanity! Firefox and Google Chrome are not just better browsers, they offer far more security and are well-coded.
Are Your Passwords Hard To Guess and Kept Safe From Prying Eyes?
Unfortunately, because you don’t know how a website stores your password when you give it to them, you can’t really trust any website to keep it truly safe. So, it’s best to use a different password for each site you sign into and make your passwords obscure enough that it only makes sense to you. This can become a daunting task though; trying to remember which password you set for each site you use. We recommend that you keep an encrypted file on your computer that lists all your passwords to your various sites you visit.
Don’t Be All-Trusting Of Pubic Wi-Fi
Most of us enjoy the experience of using our laptops while sipping a refreshing cup of Carmel Macchiato or a Latte at our favorite coffee shop. Beware of your coffee mates! Did you know that your email and web browsing information is flowing through an unencrypted connection? Anyone that up-to-no-good in the coffee shop could filch your passwords. A 3G connection would be secure and websites that uses the https protocols such Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other non-social sites are secure, but http protocol sites are not secure.
To secure your Internet connection you need to use a virtual private network (VPN) which encrypts your connection by connecting to a secure server in the middle. Some Internet and mobile phone service providers offer VPN service such Verizon Wireless. You can also purchase separately or through your provider a Wi-Fi device that is USB capable and plug it into a USB port on your laptop. This type of Wi-Fi service is more reliable and more secure.
Don’t Leave Your Laptop or Computer Unattended
This recommendation is for people who work in an office environment with staff or using your laptop offsite. If you work from home or just using your computer or laptop as a regular person, you can probably trust your family. But, then there are times when service workers are present and while most are bonded, that won’t protect you if your private data is stolen. So, as a general rule, use a lock for your laptop, especially when you’re using it in public and shut down your computer at home or office when you need to step away for more than say 15 minutes. An experience hacker or thief needs less than five minutes to get what they want.
These 10 tips are only a fraction of the different things you can do to protect yourself and your computer. What are your top tips? Leave us a comment below.