How to keep your computer safe

Listen up for a moment; we need to talk about computer safety and the importance of protecting your home computer and laptop from attack by cyber criminals. This might just be the most valuable blog post you read all day…

What is cybercrime?

Put quite simply, cybercrimes are criminal offences that are committed over the Internet, or aided in some way by computer technology. If the perpetrator is using a computer or web-enabled device to tease information, attack a system or implant a virus, they’re committing a cybercrime. There are numerous kinds of cybercrime, including hacking, identity theft, phishing, cyber bullying, cyber terrorism and the distribution of hate material and child pornography, as well as the distribution of viruses and malware. Many of these cybercrimes have the potential to attack computers and steal data, so your vigilance is essential.

Protecting your computer

While it can be tempting to stick your head into the sand and leave it there until the threat passes, the simple and grim reality is that anyone is at risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime – whether they’d like to acknowledge the fact or not. Indeed, if you have a computer and access to the Internet, there’s a good chance that your personal details are already under threat, unless you’re willing to take action. Luckily, there are numerous steps that you could take in order to protect your computer from harm, and many of them are quick and easy to implement.

Get to grips with cyber security

Perhaps the best way to keep your computer safe is to familiarize yourself with the potential risks of owning such a device, and to ensure you fully understand the implications of poor or non-existent security. Prevention is always better than a cure, after all. You don’t have to be a computer programmer, web developer or Internet expert to take a keen interest in technology, and there are numerous courses running all over the country that could further your command of computer speak. As you’d imagine, online courses are particularly popular. Enrolling on a course such as Maryville’s degree in cybersecurity program online will stand you in good stead for protecting your computer, while perhaps furthering any interest you may have in a career within the cyber security sector.

Cover your computer’s back

There are three things that every computer should have installed; a secure firewall, up to date antivirus software, and antispyware software. Each will offer its own unique protection against hackers, identity thieves and other ne’er-do-wells, ensuring your computer remains secure at all times. So, what does each do? Firewalls provide an excellent barrier between your computer and any unauthorized programs attempting to make access. Antivirus software, meanwhile, seeks out and blocks nefarious computer code that may be trying to access your system. Finally, there’s antispyware software, which is dedicated to the eradication of the programs that aim to sneak into your system and collect data without approval. This three-pronged attack is absolutely vital if you’re to stand a chance of keeping your computer safe.

Be mindful of your emails

Spyware, Trojans, worms, viruses, ransomware and adware are nothing new, but their existence continues to baffle and threaten the Internet-using public. Typically sent to unsuspecting victims in the contents of an unsolicited email, or as an attachment, these examples of malware can render a computer useless with a single click, and utterly devastate an individual or company in the process. To give your computer the best chance of survival, never open emails from unknown senders, and only ever download attachments from verified contacts. Many email providers will automatically screen incoming messages for malware, but remaining vigilant is an essential defense.

Take care online

It’s not enough to vet your email inbox or update your antivirus software anymore; these days it’s also essential to look after your online accounts and to put up your own fight against cybercrime. Take pop-ups, for example. While the majority of pop-ups are harmless, and annoying at worst, there are those that are designed to cause significant damage to computer systems. A simple pop-up blocker should prevent such attacks from occurring at all. Then there’s the issue of passwords. Complex passwords, which generally contain a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols, offer the first line in defense against hackers and identity thieves, ensuring that your accounts are far more difficult to crack than those with predictable or ‘easy’ passwords. To retain that level of security, change your passwords at regular intervals, and always, always keep your home and wireless networks encrypted. You never know who may be lurking on the street below…

Of course, there are a number of things that you can and should be doing in order to keep your computer safe, in particular, remaining vigilant. If your security software is about to run out, update it; if you have reason to have sensitive information on your computer, encrypt it. Any and all data should be backed up by way of a manual or automated retrieval system, while downloads should be kept to an absolute minimum – and only ever sourced from reputable sites. When you think about it, computer safety should come as second nature. The implementation of these processes is up to you.

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