Important Computer & Internet Security Tips
The internet is full of threats...
...and each day new threats such as malware (computer viruses, spyware, adware, rootkits, trojan horse, worms, etc..) arise.
Also threats like phishing, identity theft and hacking are a common thing online.
All these threats can cause serious damage to your computer and life.
Luckily there are some things you can do to improve the security and safety of your PC, home network and internet connection.
Here you will find a list with 25+ important computer and internet security tips that will help you to stay safe online.
Important Computer & Internet Safety Tips
- Use a genuine version of Microsoft Windows.
- Using pirated/cracked versions of Windows can bring you many disadvantages, such as:
- No official and commercial support from Microsoft.
- Windows could be modified by a hacker to spy on you.
- No official builds and updates. Updates are very important!
- Windows could work slow because of the hacks done to make it genuine.
- Malware (computer viruses, spyware, trojan horse, worms, rootkits, etc...) pose a unstoppable threat.
- Tip! if you don't want to buy a genuine version of Microsoft Windows, then use alternatives, such as Linux Mint or Ubuntu (both are quickly installed and easy to use).
- Using pirated/cracked versions of Windows can bring you many disadvantages, such as:
- Use a Firewall.
- A firewall is software or hardware that helps screen out hackers and malware that try to reach your computer over the Internet. Windows comes with a (software) firewall built-in, but you must be sure that it's turned on.
- Use Antivirus Software – no matter how careful you are.
- No matter how smart you think you are, you can still benefit from antivirus software on your Windows PC. You can see antivirus software as your final layer of protection. Even one of your favorite websites can one day be infected with malware and antivirus software can protect you against it.
- Keep Windows and software always up-to-date.
- Updates may include important patches to fix security vulnerabilities and this prevents attackers from exploiting security holes.
- Always take security warnings from Windows, antivirus software and your web browser seriously.
- If you ignore security warnings from Windows, antivirus software and your web browser, then your system will get infected with malware.
- Don't use a Windows administrator account for daily use, but use a standard account instead.
- If malware or a hacker gets access to your system, then the malware or hacker has the same rights of whatever account you're using. So if you use an administrator account and malware or a hacker takes control of your system, then the malware or hacker can do anything he, she or it wants and have full control of your system, but if you use a standard account then they can only do things that don't require administrator permission, so he or she can't change important system settings or install malware, and malware can't install itself unless you enter the administrator password.
- Don't download, install and use pirated/cracked software.
- Pirated/cracked software could infect your PC with malware. The crack (piece of software used to crack the software to make it look genuine) might actually be disguised malware.
- Always download software from a trusted source, like the official website of the maker of the software.
- Nowadays when you want to download software you have to be very careful before you click on any "Download" button or link, because you never know what you may end up with! You might be downloading and installing crapware or adware.
- Pay attention when installing software.
- Never click to fast on "Next", "Install", "OK", etc... when installing software., because you might install extra unwanted third-party software (like toolbars). If you see extra offers, then uncheck all their checkboxes.
- Never click on "OK", "Yes" or "Run" when a pop-up window appears and asks you to download and install unknown software.
- Malware will sometimes try to trick you in installing even more malware. Example: a pop-up window appears with a warning message like "Your Windows computer could be at risk! Install the repair tool to clean and protect your system...." and when you click on "Secure now", "OK", "Yes" or "Run" then your system gets infected.
- Check free software before downloading and installing it onto your computer.
- Software could just be Malware disguised as software, so always Google the software first and look for reviews or forums that talks about this software.
- Don't download and open email attachments from a suspicious email – unless you can verify the source.
- Many computer viruses are delivered through an email attachment. Attachments that contain viruses are either executable programs (file types: .com, .exe, .vbs, .zip, .scr, .dll, .pif, .js) or macro viruses (file types: .doc, .dot, .xls, .xlt).
- Disable or better yet, uninstall Java if you don't need it.
- Java has a lot of security vulnerabilities which are constantly being exploited in attacks. Java vulnerabilities are one of the biggest security holes on your computer. It needs constant patching (security updates).
- Disable or uninstall Adobe Flash Player if you don't need it (disable also in your web browser).
- Like Java, Adobe Flash Player has also a lot of security flaws which are being exploited in attacks. You should also disable it in your web browser, because browser plugins are a favorite target for malware and cyber criminals because they are generally full of unpatched or undocumented security holes that cyber criminals can use to take complete control over vulnerable systems.
- When you insert a USB flash drive or external hard drive from someone into your PC, then scan it first with your antivirus program before opening or copying anything.
- It's always a good idea to scan someone's USB flash drive or external hard drive for malware when you use it on your PC, because USB plug-and-play devices are the easiest method to infect computers.
- Never click on unknown links or links that look suspicious.
- Links can bring you to malicious websites that will infect your PC. So when you get an email with a link in it, then don't click on the link. Same counts for links on unknown websites. If you are curious about a link, then you could check the link (URL) at VirusTotal.com.
- Never download "codecs" or "players" to watch videos online.
- If a website wants to install video codecs, don't allow it. It's not worth the risk. Most likely you can find the video on YouTube anyway.
- Disable macros and ActiveX in the Microsoft Office suite – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc...
- These are bits of software that cyber criminals often use to spread malware and infect computers.
- Always verify file extensions before clicking on them.
- Cyber criminals are very good at camouflaging files to make them look harmless. The purpose is to trick you into clicking on them and launch a malware infection that will take over your system. Change your Windows settings to show file name extensions, so you'll know to avoid shady file extensions, like .jpeg.exe (.jpeg isn't dangerous, because it's an image format, but combined with .exe it's malware).
- Disable AutoPlay on your PC.
- AutoPlay is a Windows feature that allows you to quickly open digital media from USB flash drives, External hard drives and CDs with designated software. Malware can use this feature to start running automatically and gain access to your computer.
- Don't keep Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on unless you're actively using it.
- Cyber criminals can use both of these connections to attack and compromise your devices.
- Secure your home network.
- Keep your router's firmware up-to-date.
- Change your router's default IP address.
- Change your router's default administrator password and username.
- Encrypt your Wi-Fi network with WPA2 or WPA encryption (WPA2 is the strongest). Don't use WEP encryption.
- Disable UPnP (Universal Plug and Play).
- Be careful when using a public, shared and free Wi-Fi network.
- Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
- Don't do things that require your bank account information, credit card information or other personal, important and sensitive information like online banking or shopping.
- Don't share files with personal, important and sensitive information, because they might get intercepted by someone.
- Disable network discovery, file and printer sharing and public folder sharing in Windows.
- Visit only websites that uses HTTPS encryption, so that you will have a more private and secure connection to that website. Example: https://www.facebook.com
- Use two-factor authentication for your online accounts (email, social media, etc...).
- Two-factor authentication (also known as 2-Step verification) is an extra layer of security for your online accounts designed to ensure that you're the only person who can access your accounts, even if someone else knows your passwords.
- Don't use too many web browser extensions (add-ons / plugins).
- Web browser extensions are just part of the problem. Any form of browser integration can create security holes.
- Disable Windows PowerShell if you don't use it.
- Windows PowerShell is a tool that's much more powerful than the Command Prompt. There are many types of malware (like ransomware), who abuse PowerShell to plant and execute malware deep in the victim's system.
- Create regular backups of all your important files.
- Ransomware is a type of malware (malicious software) designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. If this happens you will also lose access to all of your files (documents, etc...). Ransomware is one of the world's fastest growing types of malware. So having a backup of your files is very important.
- When providing answers to security questions for your online accounts, add a short word (that only you know) to the end of your answer.
- Social media can usually provide answers to common security questions. Adding a short word to the end of your answer can help prevent hackers (who have your personal information) from knowing the answer. Example word "day", so if your mother's maiden name is Johnson, then enter something like Johnsonday (Mother's maiden name: Johnsonday).
References and Sources:
- Microsoft: What is a firewall?
- HowToGeek: You Need An Antivirus on Windows, No Matter How Careful You Are
- Bitdefender: Dangers of using pirated software
- MakeUseOf: 3 Top Ways People Get Infected by An Email Virus
- KrebsOnSecurity: A Month Without Adobe Flash Player
- HeimdalSecurity: The Anti-Ransomware Protection Plan You Need to Follow Today
- HowToGeek: Don’t Use Your Antivirus’ Browser Extensions: They Can Actually Make You Less Safe