how to protect your computer

Would you like to know how to protect your computer from hackers?

The internet is a wonderful tool, but there’s a dark side to the convenience of having all of that information at your fingertips. That dark side is the risk of hackers and data thieves.

It’s a growing concern, as it’s estimated that hackers will steal 33 billion personal records by the year 2023. That’s up from 12 billion records in 2018. 

Along with that increase in stolen records comes an increase in identity theft.

There are ways to protect yourself and your privacy. It starts with securing your computer. Read on to learn how you can protect your computer from malware and viruses.

The Different Types of Viruses and Malware

Understanding how to protect your computer begins with understanding the different types of ways hackers will try to infect your computer and steal your data.

You’ll hear different terms as you’re learning. Spyware, adware, viruses, trojans, malware, phishing, are all commonly used terms to describe how your computer can become infected.

Malware is the big broad term that describes any type of malicious code that’s installed on your computer. That includes spyware, viruses, and everything else.

Viruses are executable files that are launched through a program. Most of the time, you don’t even know about them. When they’re launched, they’re programmed to steal information or target another website with a denial of service attack.

Spyware spies on your actions and records information such as credit cards and passwords. Adware launches ads or pages that look like ads that are designed to scare you. You might have seen pages that look legit that say “You don’t have the latest version of xyz software installed.” Don’t panic and don’t click on it.

Ransomware is a program that literally holds your computer hostage. Your computer is completely locked up until you pay the ransom, which can be thousands of dollars in Bitcoin or some other type of cryptocurrency.

How to Protect Your Computer

Despite the creative ways that hackers will use to try to make money, steal your data, or steal your identity, it is possible to protect yourself.

Make Sure You Use Anti-Virus Software

The best place to start is by installing anti-virus software on your computer.

You may even want to use a combination of tools. While some tools are great at picking up viruses, they may miss other types of malware. For example, you can use Windows Firewall with anti-virus software.

Update Software Regularly

Hackers take the latest software versions and work to exploit vulnerabilities in the code. Software vendors respond to this threat by releasing updates to their programs. Some programs will update automatically, while others have to be manually installed.

For example, Microsoft updates Windows with the latest security settings once a week. Major updates rollout to Windows twice a year.

If you fail to update Windows or any other software, hackers can get into your computer through these software vulnerabilities.

Use a VPN

Do you use your computer on public networks like coffee shops or airports? These are vulnerable networks that hackers can easily exploit. There are hackers called sniffers who sniff around these networks waiting for someone to send sensitive data through them.

If you do access the internet on an unsecured network, invest in a virtual private network connection.

They don’t cost a lot and they can protect you and your data in the long run. A VPN lets you communicate over a public or otherwise unsecured network through a public network.

What a VPN does is encrypt your data and protects your identity from being tracked on a public network.

That doesn’t mean you’ll be fully protected, however. You could still click on an ad or malicious email would trigger an attack on your machine.

Get a Maintenance Check

There are times when viruses are installed on your computer and you don’t know it. What you will notice is that your computer behaves slightly differently. It might be slower or it might show a blue screen of death.

You don’t want to take any chances with that. Take your computer in to get it checked out. At the very least you’ll get an expert to diagnose your computer.

Don’t Click on Anything Suspicious

Email is a primary target of hackers. About one out of every hundred emails sent is an attempt to heck into a computer. 

Emails are sometimes masked to look like they’re from people that you know. In these cases, they’ll ask to wire money to a bank account.

Never, ever wire money to any account based on an email. That’s especially true if you’re in the process of buying a home

It’s not just email you have to be careful of either. Websites, fake ads, and pop-up windows that tell you that you need to update your software or you’ll get a virus.

A good rule of thumb is to always check with the software vendor directly before clicking on these ads. Usually, a quick Google search will confirm that these things are malicious and should be ignored.

Always Have Backups

Unfortunately, you can have the best anti-virus systems installed and do everything right. Yet, one click when you’re not really paying attention could ruin your computer.

Having a backup protects your information in case a virus destroys your information.

There are a few ways to backup your data. You can have an external hard drive and back your data up to that. An alternative is to use a cloud-based solution.

Protect Your Computer

If you’re like many people, you depend on your computer for a lot of things. Connecting with friends, storing old photos, and your business can all be on your computer. Add your personal privacy on top of that and it’s clear that there’s a lot at stake. That’s why you’re wondering how to protect your computer. 

Since you rely on your computer so much, you need to do everything you can to protect your data. If you have any questions about protecting your computer, give us a call today.