Hackers used to be people who found ways to do weird things with computers just because it was fun. These days such people would probably refer to themselves as “ethical hackers” because the general term “hacker” has developed much darker connotations. The good news is that there are steps you can take to protect yourself against “black hat” hackers. Here are some of them.
1.Make sure you are using an up-to-date operating system
In simple terms, the security of operating systems has been getting better and better over the years. Sadly, so has the sophistication of the attacks against them. What that means in practice is that using an up-to-date operating system is a starting point for making sure that you’re protected against hackers rather than all you need to do to ensure that you stay safe online.
2.Keep all your programs/apps up to date
Essentially the same comments apply to individual programs/apps. It’s also a good idea to keep locally-installed programs and apps to a minimum, basically anything you really need and anything you really love. That way not only will you have less to keep secure, your antivirus will have less to scan and potentially treat if you do pick up something nasty.
3.Keep locally-stored files to a minimum
For similar reasons, be careful about downloading files to your computer/mobile device. Most viruses are still contained in legitimate code, in other words, in software or in files which run macros. There are some exceptions to this, in fact some malware can operate just by being displayed on your screen, but it is still the general rule. Again, the less you keep on your desktop, the less at risk you’ll be and the less you’ll have to scan and treat in the event that you do pick up some malware.
4.Take passwords seriously
Remembering strong passwords is a pain and the pros and cons of password-storage apps and offline encryption methods are very much a matter of debate. What is a matter of fact is this. The more accounts you have, the more passwords you will have and, if you insist on using the same password for everything (even if it is strong) then the more at risk you are if that password is compromised. So, for the best level of security, close down any online accounts you don’t use, again, ask yourself if you really need it or if you really love it and if the answer to both questions is no, then get rid of it. Then ramp up the security of the passwords you do keep.
Also, think before you enter your password, especially if you’re in a public place. There is no security software in the world which can protect your password (or PIN or memorable data) from someone looking over your shoulder as you type it in.
5.Be careful about public WiFi connections
Public WiFI connections can be very convenient, but they can also be a security risk. As a minimum check the proper name of the network, don’t just assume it’s the “obvious” one. Also, while it may be a pain, do read the terms and conditions and make sure that you’re comfortable with them, usage limits may be acceptable, but some of these sites will try to sneak in conditions that you agree to receive marketing material and/or to have your data passed on. If you’re regularly on the move, you might want to think about using a Virtual Private Network. These are also often known as “tunnels” essentially because they put up a protective tunnel between you and the internet at large. Alternatively, just stick to using mobile data and private internet connections.
6.Purge your device properly before recycling/passing it on
This step is easy to overlook, but is absolutely vital. For a computer, you should use a proper disk-clean-up program and ideally you should also run a proper storage clean-up app on any mobile device you plan to decommission/pass on. As an absolute minimum, restore to factory settings (and remember to remove any storage cards and the SIM card).
7.Protect your computer/mobile device with a reputable antivirus
The security programs/apps bundled with the major operating systems are simply not enough to provide meaningful protection against all the many cyberthreats internet users can encounter. They are basically enough to get you online so that you can download a proper antivirus such as Comodo. Comodo antivirus products offer robust protection at a price you can afford and you can get it from this page right now.