Here are a few security tips to help keep your computer safe:
1. Don’t fall for a tech support scam: Use caution when dealing with any remote tech support company, as giving them remote control of your computer exposes all your documents, files and other data.
Remember, a legitimate business will never cold-call you saying you have computer problems or alert you to call them from pop-ups on your computer. These are two popular ways I’ve seen scammers use to scare people into handing over money for so-called help in fixing their computer.
If this happens to you, I suggest contacting your bank to report a scam and a local computer support company to ensure they can no longer remote into your computer.
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2. Use a good antivirus or internet security suite: No one antivirus can stop every single virus out there. However, you should at least ensure you’re using security software that has high detection and protection rates proven in independent tests by organizations such as AV-Comparatives (www.av-comparatives.org) and AV Test (www.av-test.org).
Most people have heard of Norton and McAfee. Norton usually does well in these tests, while McAfee does not. The antivirus included with Windows 8 and 10 surprisingly also does not do well even though it’s developed by Microsoft. My favorite antivirus is Bitdefender (www.bitdefender.com), which does very well in the tests.
3. Use a secondary malware scanner: Many of the complaints we see today aren’t true viruses but are adware and other milder types of malware. So, having an additional security scanner that’s designed to look for these types can really help.
Though you don’t want two full antivirus programs simultaneously running, some anti-malware programs like from MalwareBytes (www.malwarebytes.org) are fine to run alongside a full antivirus.
4. Encrypt your hard drive: If your computer is stolen, it’s easy for anyone who knows what they’re doing to get into the computer and your files. Even if you have a Windows password set, that can be easily bypassed. However, encrypting your hard drive(s) makes it impossible for nearly anyone to “hack” your computer.
Some newer Windows 10 devices come with Device Encryption enabled. If yours isn’t already encrypted and you have a Windows Professional edition, you can utilize the included Bitlocker feature. If you have a Home edition of Windows, you can utilize third-party solutions, such as VeraCrypt (veracrypt.codeplex.com).
5. Ensure your Wi-Fi is secured: You can have the best antivirus solution, but if your Wi-Fi is open for others to connect (or is easy to hack) then all your computers are vulnerable. You should ensure any Wi-Fi you have is password-protected, which means the connection is also encrypted so others nearby can’t capture your online activity from the airwaves.
There are a few different Wi-Fi security methods, and you should use the latest: WPA2. If your internet service provider installed a wireless router, you should also change the default Wi-Fi name and password. Some companies, like Timewarner Cable (now Spectrum), utilize insecure default Wi-Fi names and passwords, making it easy for some people to connect.
6. Use content filtering if you have children around: The internet has tons of useful information, while at the same time has tons of worthless information and inappropriate content. Children can stumble upon this even when they aren’t looking for it, so it’s a good idea to be proactive.
Though content filtering can’t block all inappropriate content, it can certainly help. I suggest using OpenDNS (www.opendns.com) along with adult supervision.