Twenty years ago, it was rare to come across a computer virus or a worm. Then this internet thing came along. And today computing is bound to be trouble. The more computers get connected to each other, the more computers will get infected by malware. It is estimated that around half a million new malware samples are intercepted worldwide — daily.
Infecting computers used to be an activity maintained largely for fun. Today, it is a multibillion-dollar business. Governments and corporations spy on each other, abuse software backdoors, infect computers to steal data or cause damage. Hackers break passwords, steal credit card information, digital money from banks and other financial institutions, steal identities and impersonate other people, encrypt key files on computers and then demand ransom… The list goes on and on. New and more creative ways of infecting computers with malicious intent are developed on a daily basis.
Still, people use computers, software and internet services routinely. Therefore, it is a good idea to stick to some guidelines that will keep your identity, your data and your money a lot safer. I compiled a few tips below that I find helpful.
Safe Home Computing
- Do not allow other people to use your computer.
- Make sure that your router is set up correctly.
- Use a strong firewall.
- Always use antimalware.
- Have multiple agents continuously running in the background, protecting your computer in real-time.
- Run full computer scans once a week.
- Keep your software programs up to date. Vulnerabilities and security holes are discovered all the time. Install updates immediately after they are released.
- Regularly backup important files to an external storage media.
- Use standard user accounts in Windows.
Safe Online Behavior
- Use strong passwords to access all your accounts.
- Keep your passwords safe.
- Visit only trustworthy websites.
- Use two-factor authentication when it’s available.
- Always check files downloaded from the internet for malware.
- Try to avoid using public wi-fi connections.
- If you have to use public wi-fi, limit your use to websites where you won’t need any passwords or codes that could be stolen.
Safe Smartphone Use
- Keep your smartphone locked.
- Use encryption to protect any sensitive data stored on your smartphone.
- Keep a close eye on installed apps for suspicious behavior.
- If you don’t use bluetooth, turn it off in your smartphone.
- I am not a fan of smartphones. I think they are a serious security risk and I prefer not to use them at all.
- Use spam protection or spam filtering.
- If an email is suspicious or there’s something fishy about it, it is probably a malicious email. Don’t click on any links within it.
- Treat all email attachments the same way as files downloaded from the internet. Check them for malware!
- If in doubt, investigate the email’s header data to find further information.
- Use dedicated email addresses to communicate with certain websites as a spam deterrent.
- Use add-ons for improved security and privacy protection.
- Disallow pop-ups in your browser.
- Watch out for malicious scripts trying to be launched by some websites.
- Watch out for malicious apps on social media sites.
- If possible, verify the identities of your online contacts. Be wary of unknown people making friend requests.
Safe Software Use
- Don’t let anyone install software on your computer.
- Install and use software only from verified publishers.
- When installing free software, watch out for potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) piggybacking.
- Make sure your hosting company is prepared to deal with all kinds of attacks, including the most important one — social engineering.
- Use trustworthy software to access your FTP server.
- Use strong passwords for all access points and keep them safe.
- If you use WordPress, don’t use themes and plugins downloaded from untrustworthy sources — they are almost certainly infected.
Even if you stick to the above guidelines at all times, your computer is still going to get infected sooner or later — the only question is whether you will be aware of this fact or not.
The good news is that there is always a way to solve the infection. In most cases by removing the malware itself or removing the infected files, or — in extreme cases — re-installing all the software including the operating system on your computer.
If your computer gets infected and nothing seems to work and you are not experienced enough to find a solution yourself, disconnect your computer from the internet and call for professional help. There are always tools available that can be used to successfully treat malware infections.
I will be writing more detailed posts about each item in the guidelines in the near future, so be sure to check back often.
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