The Layman’s Guide to Computer Security

With a world full of malware, identity thieves and hackers, securing your computer properly is of at most importance. But unfortunately, most of us do not think further than installing security software. Mostly it is only after you get infected or hacked, that you realize you have done too little. But it would be too late by then.

The truth is, by following some very simple practices, you can easily minimize chances of being infected. Here’s a rundown of some of basic tips to secure your computer.

Install reputed Anti-virus software

You should make it a habit of installing an anti-virus (AV) software right after you install your OS. There is free antivirus as well as paid security software. If you are ready to shell out a few bucks, you can go for paid solutions. But the free ones work just fine. When you buy/download security software, make sure that it is a reputed one. A simple Google search can give you an idea whether the software is good or not. There are lots of Fake AVs doing the rounds and you don’t want to end up getting one of those. So this is an important step before getting a security suite.

Also Read: Protect Yourself from Internet Threats

Some examples of paid security software are Norton, NOD32, and Vipre etc. Free ones include AVG, Avast and Microsoft Security Essentials.

As I mentioned before, just having the anti-virus installed is not enough. You have to use it wisely. And by using wisely, I mean turning on the real-time protection, updating the AV and scanning your PC in regular intervals. The real-time protection mechanism monitors you PC all the time and will warn if there is any suspicious activity. Almost all major AV software has this feature.

Malware of different types are being released to the internet every minute and running an out-dated anti-virus makes your PC more susceptible to those malware. A common trend nowadays is that people tend to use trial versions of paid security suites that come pre-installed even after the trial has expired. Do not do that. As the trial is expired, you won’t be getting updates and your AV will be of no use unless you have the latest updates. So pay to get the full version of that software or else choose a free one to get those valuable definition updates. Remember! Updates are the spirit of your AV.

Do a system scan once in a while. A full scan every week would suffix. Most of the modern AVs allow you to schedule regular scans and automatic updates so that it requires minimum intervention from the end user.

Update the OS and all other installed software

While trying to break into a PC, it’s not just the vulnerabilities in Windows that the hackers take advantage of. Vulnerabilities in third party software are also an important issue. So make sure that all of the programs that you have installed are fully updated and not just your OS or security software.

Use a strong and unpredictable password

Your password is the key to your data and it is extremely important that you use a strong password. Here are some tips on creating a strong password.

  • Your password should have more than 8 characters.
  • Use a password that is not easily predictable. People tend to use passwords that are related to them such as their own names, date of births, favorite quotes etc. A hacker who stalks their victim’s social networking accounts such as Facebook can find this kind of information very easily. So it is very important that you use an un-related word, preferably a non-dictionary word as your password.
  • Try to include upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers and special characters to strengthen your password.
  • Do not use a single password for all your accounts. If you use a single password and your account gets hacked, your other accounts are also compromised.

Also Read: Tips to Create Easy-to-remember Strong Passwords | 4 Tools to Generate Strong Passwords

Practice safe browsing habits

Bad browsing habits are one of the major sources of malware infection. Always be vary of things that your download from the internet. Even if you download something from a trusted source, scan it before opening or executing the file. Do not download pirated software or media as there’s a big probability that they might be infected with malware.

Use your browser’s security features such as the smart screen and phishing filter while browsing. All of the major browsers such as IE, Firefox and Chrome come with these features.

While using social networks, be careful about whom you befriend and the level of data that you want to share with. For more on Facebook security, check out this guide.

Backup your data

Even if you are following the above practices, it is better to have a backup’ plan. The best method is to backup your data to an external hard drive. There is lots of software that will do this for you. Using Windows built in tools; you either do a full PC backup or choose which data you want to back. These settings can be found in the Backup and Restore Center in Windows 7 and Vista (just type backup in the start menu and press enter to open the Backup and Restore Center).You can also use paid software like Acronis True Image or Norton Ghost if you need more features.

Whether you use paid solution or the native Windows tool, make it a habit to backup important documents and media so that even if your system gets infected or corrupted, you don’t lose your important data.

You can also use websites to backup your data to the cloud. We have covered several services which allow users to backup files for free online, you will find most of them in our Online Storage section.

With the help of security software and by using our very precious common sense, we can easily reduce the chance of getting infected up to a great extent.

So stay safe and happy browsing!

Published by

Nithin Ramesh

Nithin is a blogger and a Windows security enthusiast. He is currently pursuing Bachelors in Electronics and Communication. Apart from technology his other interests include reading and rock music. His Twitter handle is @nithinr6