7 Things You Can Do Right Now For Free To Increase The Security of Your Computer
Hey folks! Security for your computers is a big deal regardless of whether or not you run a small business or use Facebook at home. With all the hacks, scams, and malware out there it can be hard to keep up with the latest to ensure you stay safe. Fortunately, as your computer consultant I have your back with 7 easy tips to increase the security of your computer without spending a dime. Are you ready? Let's get started!
Tip #1: Install an Ad-Blocker for your Web Browser
One of the most common ways people can get scammed on the Internet or get a virus on their computers is a malicious advertisement on an otherwise normal website. It doesn't matter how reputable the website is, if it serves ads, you may be at risk. This is because many of these websites run ads from large companies that don't keep as much track of the bad ads that try to sneak in as they should. Sure you can just avoid clicking on them, but it is actually more secure and faster for your computer to prevent these ads from loading entirely. That's where an Ad Blocker like Adblock Plus comes in.
Most Ad Blockers tend to block all advertising on the web but the people who make Adblock Plus know that some ads are legit and are needed for ones favorite websites to keep their lights on. So Adblock Plus pays more attention to malicious ads and annoying ads, and don't worry, you'll still see a lot of ads disappear because most of them are annoying if not malicious. With this useful extension that can be installed on all of your web browsers, you can stay a little safer on the web and have your websites load faster as well. Go ahead and click on the button below to install it right now. If you are a PC Protection Plan subscriber, I probably already installed it for you. :)
Tip #2: Use A Password Manager
Passwords, they suck don't they? Either you make a secure one that you can't remember so you can't login to your accounts or you make the password so simple that anyone could guess it. You may even use the same password for all of your accounts. The problem there though is that if someone gets a hold of that password somehow, then all of your accounts are now hacked. As frustrating as passwords are, they are necessary in preventing your data from being easily stolen. Thankfully, there is an easier way to get a handle on your passwords. Enter the password manager!
With a password manager, you only have to remember one Master Password and it locks up all of your other passwords securely. You can easily generate secure passwords that you don't need to remember in the app and quickly fill them into the password fields in your web browser or smartphone apps. My current favorite password manager is LastPass, the nice thing about LastPass is that they don't store your master password and the passwords stored on their servers are encrypted in such a way that even they can't get to them. The only downside there is if you forget your master password, LastPass can't help you. Click the button below to learn more about and install LastPass for your computers and phones.
Tip #3: Turn on 2 Factor Authentication on Most Accounts
In addition to passwords, it is useful and the most secure to use a feature called 2 Factor Authentication on as many accounts as possible. Basically this means you need to enter a code generated from your phone in addition to your password in order login to your account. That way if a hacker gets your password somehow they still can't get into your account without your phone. I wrote a blog post earlier explaining 2 Factor Authentication in more detail. Beware though, Never use your cell phone number as your 2 Factor Authentication method as hackers have ways of pretending that they have your phone and get access to 2 Factor Authentication texts. Always use an authenticator app like Authy or LastPass Authenticator to generate codes securely.
Now I know that entering a code from your phone each time you want to login can be quite annoying over time but luckily, you can set the logins on some sites to remember the computers you login from the most for up to 30 days. A code will still be required if you login from a new computer or the 30 days have expired. Sure, still not super convenient, but nothing is as convenient as secure feels. :)
Tip #4: Use Fake Security Question Answers
A common attack vector that some hackers use to break into people's accounts is known as social engineering. It's actually a pretty low tech form of identity theft. Basically the attacker calls the company where your account is held and tries to convince the operator that he is you and to get them to reset your password so they can get in. The simplest way to prevent this is to use security questions on your account. An answer to a question that only you know the answer to. Unfortunately, with social media and more social engineering, it is possible for a hacker to get these answers either through yourself or people you know who might know the answers to these questions. So you know what I do to prevent this? Use fake answers! For example, If my security question is What is your favorite color? I might answer Popcorn or something weird like that that I might remember. That way, no one could possibly guess the answers even if they know me personally. Pretty clever huh? :)
Tip #5: Periodically Delete Temporary Files with CCleaner
You know how identity protection experts always say you should shred any sensitive documents so they can't be dug out of the trash by a thief? Well the same is true for a thief looking to dig up seemingly useless data on your computer. It turns out the temporary files that your computer stores while surfing the web and using various programs for work can contain various codes that could get a hacker into your online accounts without you knowing it. Of course this would be provided that someone was able to get onto your computer, so hopefully you followed Tip #1 and also paid for a good antivirus software by now. But just in case, it wouldn't hurt to clean out those junk files at least once a month using a nifty little program called CCleaner.
CCleaner is very easy to use, you just select the programs and Windows features that you want the temporary files to be cleaned from (what's already selected should be fine) and click the Clean button. Running it for the first time, you'll be surprised how much free space you'll reclaim. You'll get rid of those junk files hackers can use to logon to your accounts and as a bonus you'll keep your computer running it's best because leaving those files sitting too long can also cause your computer to slow down. So it's a win win! Click the button below to learn more about and install CCleaner. If you are on our maintenance plan, we install a managed version of CCleaner that automatically cleans junk files for you!
Tip #6: Avoid Unwanted Software Checkboxes
For most people, installing new software is a rare occurrence. However, this can also be a place where some people get into trouble. You see a lot of legitimate software programs (especially when they are free) tend to trick you into installing other programs you don't want by hiding a checkbox somewhere in the installer. By un-checking the box you can prevent the unwanted app from being installed but most people miss it because they keep clicking next to try to just get the darn program to install. So to stay safe make sure you do the following whenever you install a new program on your computer:
- Make sure the program you are downloading comes from a trusted source, usually it's directly from the company that makes the program.
- Slow Down! Don't rush through the installer, look out for any checked check boxes that may install a program you don't want and un-check them.
- When the program finishes installing, double check that the only change made to your computer is that the program you wanted installed. If you notice odd things happening or a program you didn't want shows up on your desktop or Start Menu, contact your IT professional immediately to have your computer checked for viruses or junkware. Don't worry about bugging us, it's what we're here for!
Tip #7: Make Sure Your Computer Is Up To Date
This is the last but most important tip. Make sure your computer is always getting it's latest updates. Generally if your computer is asking you to reboot to install updates at least once every two weeks you should be in good shape. If not, you can manually check for updates, I can probably do a whole blog post just on doing that depending on which Operating System you are using but this blog post is long enough. When in doubt you can always book an appointment with me by clicking the button below or at the top of the page here on this site and I can help you out. I also have affordable prepay tickets and maintenance plans where I answer quick email questions at no charge. A great way to stay protected and always know if a link you might click on is a bad link. I hope this blog post helped you a great deal, it took me a few days to write it with all the information I just gave you guys. I wish you all safe and happy computing! :)