Personal computer security tips

Keeping your personal computer safe is just as important as keeping your work computer safe. Here are some tips and tricks to make sure your home computer is protected.

 

Patches & Updates

Computers that aren’t regularly patched are more likely to have software vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious attackers. Often patches and updates for operating systems, chips and software include security patches for previously unknown vulnerabilities. It is recommended you turn on automatic updates. It might seem a little annoying, but these patches and updates can make a big difference. Make sure your machine is always up to date.

 

Anti-Virus Software

There is a lot of different protection software on the market. We suggest using Sophos Home. They offer a free service which is packed with features such as real-time anti-virus scanner and web protection from known malicious sites; you can opt-in for a free 30 day trial of Sophos Home Premium. The premium version is affordable ($50 CND a year) and offers advanced malware removal and ransomware protection. Depending on how you use your home computer, the free anti-virus scanner is a must, and make sure it scans on a regular basis.

 

Use Strong Passwords

We always talk about password security, and it is advice that we don’t always follow ourselves. But there is technology available that makes strong passwords much easier to use. Make sure your passwords have 12 or more characters, include numbers, symbols, capital & lower case letters, isn’t a dictionary word or combination of dictionary words, and finally, don’t rely on obvious substitutions (like replacing an “o” with a zero). It might seem difficult to create these kinds of strong passwords or to remember multiple strong passwords. One trick is to use a phrase for example: “My first apartment was on West 15 Street. Rent was $460 before utilities” can be “MfawoW15S.Rw$4bu”.

You shouldn’t reuse passwords, and remembering what passphrase you used where can be frustrating. The best thing you can do to keep your sanity and access to your accounts is investing in a password manager. Dashlane has a free version but is limited to use on one device. Dashlane premium is only 4 dollars a month and gives you unlimited devices. There are other password managers such as 1Password and Last Pass, which are all $2-5 per month.

 

Check Your Firewall

Your Windows devices and Macs have a basic Firewall built into the operating system. Checking on your firewall might sound complicated, but luckily it is effortless. If you are using a Microsoft Windows OS, search for “firewall” in the control panel, make sure it is “on” or “connected.” On a Mac, you click on the Apple icon in the toolbar, go to “system preferences – security – firewall.” In these settings you can make sure your folders can only be shared on your home network, if you don’t need your files to be visible to another computer, you can completely disable file and media sharing.

 

Email & Internet Safety

Be wary of attachments and links coming from emails and websites you don’t recognize. You should also never open an email from an unknown source. Exercising caution when opening emails and browsing the internet will help prevent your computer from being hacked. Email and Internet safety is one of those topics that have been gaining media coverage, mainly due to how elaborate phishing scams have become. When browsing the internet or emails, be vigilant. If it doesn’t look right or seems too good to be true, it is probably a scam.

 

Protecting Your Sensitive Data

Before you go to recycle or repurpose your old computer, phone, tablet, etc., make sure you remove all of the sensitive data files. Files you want to keep that hold highly sensitive information, such as tax information, can be encrypted or password protected, in case those files do make themselves public, they won’t be accessible.

 

Back Up Your Data.

In the worst case scenario, something terrible happens to your computer. Make sure you have a recent backup. Preparing for the unexpected is easy. There are backup services that will regularly backup a computer to the cloud. You can also purchase an external hard drive onto which you can back up your information.

 

Physical Security

Have you ever been to a Starbucks or a library and seen an unattended open laptop? Don’t do that! The physical security or your computer is just as important as the technical security. Don’t leave your computer in an unsecured, public area – especially if you are logged in.

For more information on computer security, please visit Next Digital.

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