Black Friday is right around the corner, and that means you’ll be tempted to splash out on some shiny new tech. If you’re in the market for a laptop, you’ll want to make sure you keep your new computer in tip-top shape. That means making sure you don’t accidentally sit on it, lob it in the tumble dryer, or use it as a makeshift frisbee.
It also means protecting it from online threats, which can sometimes be hidden in plain site. Avoiding viruses and malware (which literally means malicious software) might seem like a struggle, but with these simple tips you can fight back against those digital dangers.
If you’re not already using a firewall, you should be. In short, a firewall is any part of a computer system designed to block unauthorised access while still allowing you to go about your business. It could be a piece of computer software, or an access code for your home internet network.
Whatever you choose to use, it’s the first line of defence, and will help prevent harmful software from compromising your PC. The good news for Windows users is that the popular operating system includes a firewall that’s turned on by default, but it’s still worth editing the settings yourself to make sure it works for you. You can find out more about Windows Firewall
This might seem obvious, but anti-virus protection is a must. There are a number of options out there, but most packages let you prevent attacks by scanning for malware and pulling the plug before it can do any harm. As they always say, prevention is better than a cure. But if you want to stay ahead of the game, be sure to regularly update your software so it can keep on top of the latest threats.
Speaking of updates, it’s critically important you regularly update your operating system and software. Hackers and virtual crooks usually find ways to exploit hidden loopholes in software, leaving you open to attacks. Thankfully, those security breaches are usually discovered by the good guys too, and it’s their job to fix them by issuing software updates.
Of course, if you don’t actually install the update, you’ll still be vulnerable. So when Windows tells you it’s time to update your operating system, or your web browser asks you to switch to the latest version, you should probably take the advice. We know updates can sometimes take an eternity, but it’s a small price to pay for security.
It’s important to be prepared for the worst case scenario, and in computing terms that means backing up your files and operating system. After all, what happens if you do inadvertently download a particularly nasty piece of malware? Well, if you don’t have a back-up handy you might have to wipe your computer and start from scratch. That means losing everything. All of your work, pictures, music, and movies gone in a heartbeat.
Again, this is another one of those tips that sounds so darn obvious, but it’s probably something we’re all guilty of. When you’re dreaming up passwords for any account – be it Twitter, Facebook, Google Mail, or your online bank – make sure it’s tough to decipher. Choose something memorable, but not obvious, and try and include at least one number, upper case letter, and lower case letter. Steer away from things like birthdays and nicknames, and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. We’re as guilty as you are, but it’s time to make amends.
We spend so much thinking about what computers can do for us, maybe it’s high time we asked what we can do for them? Indeed, if you want to keep your PC in tip-top shape, it’s time to get educated and start thinking about what you’re downloading. Don’t take things at face value. Be skeptical, ask questions, and if you’re not sure about what you’re being asked to download, don’t do it.
It sounds like a simple piece of advice, but hitting the ‘download’ or ‘install now’ prompt can become second nature. So stop, think, and act accordingly. Don’t just open attachments, don’t install free software without seeing if it’s legit first, and don’t click on all of those links sent over by email. This is the one time it pays to be a cynic, so do your research and stay secure.