The Internet is a wonderful place filled with knowledge, entertainment, and numerous dangers as well. Malware, hackers, scammers, phishing websites, and who knows what else? Cyber criminals seem to develop new methods of harming us with every passing day – which is why it’s necessary to know how to protect your computer.
So, what steps do we need to take to ensure that our computer is protected? Well, let’s find out, shall we?
How to Protect Your Computer
- Install the Latest Updates
- Install an Antivirus
- Install an Anti-Malware
- Use your Head
- Stay informed
- Use a VPN
Install the Latest Updates
Ever since Windows 10 came out, people have been complaining about how annoying the “forced” updates are. But, don’t you ever wonder why Microsoft became so aggressive with delivering Windows updates? That’s right! Microsoft became so aggressive with delivering updates to offer us better security.
Security updates for both Windows and 3rd party software are necessary for patching zero-day exploits. If you don’t install these updates, you may find yourself getting infected seemingly out of nowhere at some point.
If you don’t believe me, check out the WannaCry ransomware, a ransomware which infected more than 300,000 computers simply by taking advantage of a zero-day exploit that was called EternalBlue.
To protect yourself from such things, simply install your Windows updates and your 3rd party software updates. Both of them should be handled automatically by your computer unless you manually disable them, which is obviously not recommended.
If Windows updates get installed at the most inappropriate moments, then chances are that you haven’t configured your active hours. To configure your active hours, go to Settings → Update and Security → Windows Update → Change active hours.
Install an Antivirus
Windows 10 actually comes pre-installed with its own Antivirus and it is called “Windows Defender”.
While Windows Defender is adequate for your average computer user, you may want to get a 3rd party Antivirus program depending on your budget and needs. I personally like AVG. It seems to pick up far more viruses than Norton or McAfee
For an example, someone who doesn’t know a lot about computer security but uses his computer on the office as well may want to consider a 3rd party Antivirus because he will likely expose himself to websites and emails with a questionable background. And yes, knowledge on computer security matters as well – we’ll talk about that later.
As for which Antivirus to specifically choose , that comes down to personal preference and needs – not to mention that I could write a whole article just on how to pick the right Antivirus. If you’re interested in that, do let me know in the comments .
Generally speaking, you need to ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend on an Antivirus and what features you need, then make your own research and pick the one that offers what you want for the best value.
Again, that was extremely simplified, but I hope that you get the point.
Install an Anti-Malware
When I’m saying install an Antivirus and an Anti-Malware, I’m not saying to choose between the one or the other, I’m saying to use both of them at the same time.
Yes, I know. We shouldn’t use two security programs at the same time, but that’s only partially true.
What you shouldn’t do, is use two security programs of the same kind, like two Antivirus or two Anti-Malware programs. Having only one Antivirus and one Anti-Malware is completely fine and is often recommended by experts as well.
The question is: “Why is it necessary to have both of them?” Because they detect different kinds of threats. Antivirus programs focus on your traditional kind of threats, like, well, viruses, and Anti-Malware programs detect more sophisticated malware such as hijackers, spyware, etc.
Having both of these security programs offers a higher level of overall security and that’s why it’s recommended to use both of them at the same time. If your Antivirus misses something, then your Anti-Malware may be able to detect it instead.
Use your Head
Security programs are at best the second layer of security – the first one, is always the user. That’s because all kinds of malware require some level of user interaction before they can get inside a computer.
If you do some kind of mistake and end up installing malware on your computer, then your security software should step in and prevent that malware from getting installed for you. In other words, your security programs are mostly looking out for any mistakes that you might make.
The thing is that no security program is 100% perfect. There is always the chance that something may slip by and that you’ll end up getting infected both because you were careless and because your security software wasn’t good enough. If there’s one way to solve that problem, then that’s to stay alert at all times and pay attention to what you’re doing.
Now, of course, there is the exception of zero-day attacks where you can get infected seemingly out of nowhere. However, those are extremely rare – not to mention that your computer will have to be using outdated software.
Being cautious and paying attention to what you’re doing is one thing – understanding how different kinds of malware and cybercriminals work is another.
The thing is that you can be super careful and still end up infecting yourself with something because you had no idea on what was going on.
It’s just impossible to protect yourself from the unknown. So, do make your own research every now and then to understand what you need to avoid in the first place.
For an example, one piece of information is that browser hijackers generally come bundled with non-legitimate freeware or freeware that is hosted in 3rd party websites. With that information, you can now conclude that it’s for the best if you stay away from non-legitimate freeware.
A more complex example is how ransomware works. Most kinds of ransomware arrive as an email attachment that looks like a MS Word document and then they ask you to enable Macros in order to execute their malicious code. With that information, you now know that you shouldn’t enable Macros unless it’s absolutely necessary.
You get the point. Just keep on reading articles like this one so that you’ll be able to protect yourself.
Use a VPN
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s a kind of software that mostly made to enhance your privacy and also gives you access to websites that are blocked in your country by sort of changing your IP address. Check out 15 reasons to use a VPN.
Again, this is mostly used for privacy and not for security but it’s still recommended to use one as it’s very inexpensive but still an effective tool for greatly enhancing your privacy.
But, how does it work? Well, without getting too technical, a VPN will encrypt any data that goes back and forth from your device so that nobody will be able to interfere and look at your online activities – that includes your ISP and even the government as well. Here is a more in-depth explanation of VPNs.
Careful, though. When I’m talking about the government, I’m only referring to general tracking. If you give a government agency a good reason to track you and your activities down, then they’ll do it no matter what. It’s just that your average PC user is not worthy of that effort.