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5 very simple steps that you can take to protect your computer

Whether your computer is used mainly for personal tasks or for work duties, or both, it’s more than likely that you’ll have content on it that you want to keep safe. When the topic of computer security is raised, there are a number of things to consider, such as malicious files, created by computer hackers, and the reality of physical theft.

The good news is that there are things you can do to minimise the risk of your system being compromised. The measures that you take, will depend on a number of factors. For example, if your computer holds sensitive data on it, then logically, you’re going to want to protect it, using as much resources as the value of content on the computer. Additionally, if you think your system is at high risk of computer hackers attempting to gain access to it to steal confidential data, then naturally you’re going to go even further to protect it.

For most computer users, they need only do no more than the basics to keep their computer and its contents safe. In this article we will cover 5 very simple steps that you can take to protect your computer. While these steps are relatively simple, the amount of time it will take for each step to be implemented will vary, depending on the steps complexity. As a result, you may want to give some consideration to which steps you feel immediate action should be taken to implement.

1. Refrain from Opening Emails from Unknown Senders

You should never open emails from a sender you are unfamiliar with, and you should definitely not open the attachment(s) contained in it. You should also take precautions from the users on your actual contact list, as they also run the risk of being hacked. If you receive an unusual email containing odd text and an attachment, from a user on your contact list, then you should delete the email and notify the individual. This should help you and your contact track down and eliminate the problem, if one actually exists.

One of the most effective ways of keeping your system secure from such attacks is to use an internet security tool with email scanning capabilities. Such software will be able to scan the email and determine whether or not it’s safe to open, thus eliminating the heavy lifting you’d otherwise have to do. There are many different brands of software, so I suggest you do your own research on the topic.

2. Encrypt Your Data

Whether you have company files housed on your computer or you have a lot of sentimental imagery, like photos and videos, either way, said data should be worth protecting. One way that you can do that, is by encrypting the data on your computer. When you encrypt data, it requires a decryption key in order to gain access to it. In many cases, this alone is enough to deter most hackers.

There are tons of tools you can find online that are capable of encrypting your personal affix, such as your talk history, work files, account details and more. If you would like to encrypt your entire hard drive, then there are tools like BitLocker that you can use for that purpose. When it comes to mobile devices, there are a range of tools that you can find, specifically designed for that purpose.

3. Avoid Rogue Websites

For the untrained eye, it can be rather difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate site and a rouge one. But one of the best ways to ensure a site is safe, is to look for the green lock next to the URL in the address bar. You also want to look for the https:// at the beginning at the site address. This is especially important when visiting credit card and banking sites or when checking your web mail. You also want to ensure your online shopping websites are secure, before you buy anything from them, and you should never click on any links that are sent to you in messages, instead you should type the URL into your web browser manually.

4. Make Sure Your Password Is Hard To Guess

You’d be surprised how easy it is for your website to become compromised. The reality is, you should be cautious and weary about any website you give your password details to, because you have no idea how this data is stored. For best practice purposes, you’ll want to create a unique password for each account on every website that you make one. This may seem difficult, but it will benefit you in the long run, which is why you should take the time.

One of the best ways to manage many different passwords is to use a password management tool. These tools are capable of holding all your different passwords, and automatically entering it into the corresponding website as you visit it. This eliminates the need for you to constantly take out your booklet to find the specific password for the specific website, every time you want to log in. Password management tools come highly recommended.

Lastly, you never want to use applications on your computer as a means of storing your passwords (outside of password managers of course). This is because, in many cases, the password data is stored in plain text.

5. Keep Your System Up-To-Date

While it can seem rather tedious and annoying, having to keep up with the various security and software updates, it does prove very important, in the long run. Such updates add new features which prove helpful, but the most important aspect, is the security holes they usually plug up. A security hole is a vulnerability that a computer hacker will exploit to gain access to your system. When a vulnerability is discovered software developers will work around the clock to eliminate them, then release the fix in an update.

When an update is available for your operating system, it will usually notify you. Once notified, you can choose whether to update your system immediately, or to run the update at a later date. While it can seem like an inconvenience to stop whatever you’re doing at the time to update your system, in the long run, it always works out best to update your system, as and when an update becomes available.

Your operating system isn’t the only piece of software you want to keep up-to-date. The numerous applications on your computer may also have vulnerabilities in them. When an update is made available, you may see a popup when that specific application is open.

Although, ultimately a good thing, you should always do your due diligence when it comes to updates. This is because it’s not uncommon for companies to release BETA updates. Such updates are usually untested, and thus, unstable, so use at your own risk. Even when it comes to the stable release, you may still want to wait a day or two, just in case there’s any major issue that occurs from it.

Another thing for you to consider are fake updates. Hackers are known to use such tactics to get you to enter your credentials or click on a dodgy link. You can avoid such attempts, simply by doing your research before clicking on or downloading any updates. Just do a simple search on the version that you’re being alerted to, to ensure its authenticity. Additionally, you could carry out a search query on the actual popup ad, advertising the update itself.


Uchenna Ani-Okoye is a former IT Manager who now runs his own computer support website www.compuchenna.co.uk

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