How To Protect Your PC From Hackers
How To Protect Your PC From Hackers
Cyber threats grow every day as hackers find new ways to obtain sensitive information and use it to their advantage. As a result, it’s more critical than ever to know how to protect your computer from hackers. These are our eight golden rules:
Use Antivirus Software
Since the advent of computers, unscrupulous people have been creating malicious programs to steal data, money, crypto-assets and cause chaos. Years ago, viruses were the most widespread threat. Today, antivirus software protects you from much more than viruses. It also safeguards against:
- Phishing scams
- Other types of malicious code
When you accidentally give such threats access to your machine, you open yourself to several types of problems. These programs may cause no immediate damage but later activate themselves when you perform a specific action.
Other menaces might turn off your antivirus protection or prevent your browser from installing malware removal tools. They can corrupt or destroy files on your computer and send copies of themselves to your email contacts in the hopes of infecting more PCs.
You might suddenly find yourself on an unfamiliar webpage. In some cases, the site may seem legitimate and request you enter personal information. If you fall prey to this trick, you could end up as a victim of identity theft.
Other threats record keystrokes to obtain account numbers or passwords when you make financial transactions. They may also use your computer for commercial or malicious purposes without your knowledge.
A reliable antivirus program can protect you from all of these risks. Make sure you install one and keep it updated. It’s easy to set up automatic scans that can maintain the safety of your PC at all times.
Use a Firewall
A firewall prevents unauthorized access to your PC or network. Its name comes from a literal wall that blocks the spread of fire between sections of a building. Firewalls protect you from data breaches, viruses, and malware. Anything suspicious meets resistance before it can cause damage. For a home PC or network, an advanced antivirus suite is an excellent choice because it includes a firewall feature. Businesses typically need to safeguard their data more carefully than individuals. Because of this, experts recommend the use of a hardware-based firewall.
A company without an adequate firewall is at risk of:
- Disruptive attacks that cause the server to fail
- Remote logins through which hackers can steal data or install malware
- Malicious macros that take control of applications
- Hackers sending spam to contacts through your server
- Viruses that can monitor your activity, delete data, make your PC sluggish, or cause freezes or crashes
Strengthen Your Passwords
Do you know how to create a secure password? You’ve likely heard it’s ideal to use a different one for every site, but how can you remember them all?
A password manager might be the solution for you. Many of the best antivirus programs have this as a standard feature. It allows you to create and store a complex combination of letters, numbers, and special characters for each website.
If you don’t have access to such a solution, you can apply the following tips to create strong passwords:
- Avoid using any personal information, such as your name, address, or phone number.
- Choose a longer password for optimum security. Some experts recommend at least 14 characters.
- Don’t include names of family members, pets, or your favorite sports team.
- Use a variety of characters. Each password should contain upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Invent a sequence that you’ll remember but others won’t guess. You can use tricks like spelling a word backward, squaring a memorable number, or typing your phone number while holding the shift key. You may even choose to incorporate a creative version of the name of the site you’re accessing.
One recommended tool for generating and managing your passwords is LastPass (by LogMeIn), you might find useful even with the free account. While using this powerful tool you will be able to generate strong passwords easily:
Update Your Operating System
Many worms and viruses take advantage of vulnerabilities in operating systems (OS). Developers must then create patches to fix the issues that allowed attackers to hack. These updates come out regularly, and it’s the user’s responsibility to install them.
Most new computers on the market today perform automatic updates. However, it’s not safe to assume that everything is current. You’ll need to check the status every so often.
You can configure automatic updates, and your PC should advise you when they’re available. You may need to restart the computer to finish installing them.
It’s not uncommon for people to leave a PC turned on for days or weeks at a time. However, periodically shutting your machine down is essential, as this action often triggers necessary updates.
Even if you set your computer to download and install patches automatically, you still need to check for updates periodically. In this way, you ensure the security of your OS.
A comprehensive antivirus program can help protect from hackers by alerting you when there are updates you need to install.
Browser Updates and Security Settings
Like your OS, your browser needs regular maintenance to stay as safe as possible. Install all updates as they become available to maintain the highest level of PC protection.
It’s also an excellent idea to review the security settings in your browser. Choose the most restrictive levels possible.
If this causes problems loading websites you habitually use, you can try whitelisting those pages. Adding them to a list of trusted sites will make access easier.
You may choose to place limits on the use of:
- Pop-ups – These windows sometimes carry essential information, but they can also contain malicious ads.
- Cookies – Blocking the collection of your personal information by third parties ensures it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
- Java and ActiveX controls – Hackers can hijack these programs that run on your PC.
Use a VPN
Using a virtual private network (VPN) can make your computer more secure. It creates a safe path for information to travel between your PC and others on the internet.
Through encryption, a VPN keeps potential hackers from seeing the information you send and receive. It has the following benefits:
- Protects your data even when you’re using a public wi-fi signal
- Allows access to streaming content from outside the country
- Improves privacy
- Reduces the cost of communication with friends and family who live abroad
- Avoids limits on bandwidth usage
However, not all VPNs are created equal. When you look for one, select a service that can block or filter malicious websites. You’ll want it to protect you from online fraud and continually screen your internet connection.
Choose a service that doesn’t track the sites you visit. You want a VPN with no logs. It shouldn’t record your online transactions or payment information.
Fortunately, if you have a top-level antivirus program, you probably already have access to a VPN through it. Check what your package includes, and start taking advantage of the benefits.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is a security feature that protects against hacking and phishing attacks. To log in or complete a transaction, you need to prove that you are who you claim to be. You must provide at least two of the following factors:
- Knowledge of a PIN, password, or pattern
- Biometric characteristic like a fingerprint, image, or retina
- Possession of a card, USB token, cell phone, or something similar
Many sites now send a temporary PIN to your mobile device when you try to log in from a new location or computer. Anyone who’s ever had trouble accessing their own account knows this can sometimes be an inconvenience. However, you can take comfort in knowing hackers will also have difficulty getting in.
Two-factor authentication can improve your security by ensuring that invaders can’t break into your account using only the password. In this way, you enjoy increased protection against identity theft.
Avoid Spam and Fraudulent Emails
There are several ways you can reduce the number of unwanted email messages you receive. Here are a few tips:
- When you receive an email that’s spam, mark it as such. Over time, this will teach the filter to make the choices you would.
- If your mail client flags a message as spam when it’s not, mark it accordingly. In this way, you train the filter further.
- Tell friends or family immediately if you get an email from them that appears suspicious. Their account may be at risk.
- Use an anti-spam filter from a third party. Many security suites have a feature that improves the function of your client’s filtering. These typically work with Microsoft Outlook, but not in a browser.
- Disclose your email address only when it’s inevitable. If you have to publish it online, use a service that provides a “disposable” version to hide your real contact information.
- Avoid clicking on links in messages from unknown sources. When possible, delete them without opening them. In this way, you’ll avoid downloading malware.
If all else fails, you can change your email address to reduce the amount of spam you receive. However, this requires a lot of work to notify the contacts you wish to keep. It may also mean you need to maintain two accounts for a few months until everyone starts using the new one.
The best strategy is to protect your email address from the beginning. With conscientious use of spam filters, your inbox should start to show you only the messages you want to see.