We use our computers and other devices every day. Cyber thieves know that, so they work every day to break into computer systems to steal valuable financial and personal data. We are all vulnerable and we all need to protect ourselves. Security advice to protect your data is everywhere. But how can you sift through all of it?
Here are five tips compiled from different reliable sources to help you create a secure computer environment and protect your private information:
- Anti-virus Software
Anti-virus software scans computer files or memory for certain patterns that may indicate the presence of malicious software and looks for patterns based on the signatures or definitions of known malware from cyber criminals. Anti-virus vendors find new issues and update malware daily, so it is important that you have the latest updates installed on your computer. Keep security software set to automatically receive the latest updates so that it is always current.
Firewalls provide protection against outside attackers by shielding your computer or network and preventing malicious software from accessing your systems. Firewalls can be configured to block data from certain suspicious locations or applications while allowing relevant and necessary data through. But remember, firewalls do not prevent attacks; they protect against malicious traffic (unless the user accidentally installs malware – see “phishing” below).
- Two-Factor Authentication
Many email providers now offer two-factor authentication protections to add an extra layer of protection. Often, two-factor authentication means the returning user must enter username and password plus another step, such as entering a security code sent via text to a mobile phone. A thief may be able to steal the username and password but it’s highly unlikely they also would have the mobile phone to receive the code and complete the process.
- Backup software/services
Critical files on computers should routinely be backed-up to external sources, such as a copy of the file is made and stored either online as part of a cloud storage service or saved to an external hard drive. Periodically verify that the files are backed up and can be retrieved.
- Phishing emails
Never open an email from a suspicious source, click on a link in a suspicious email or open an attachment without scanning it first. Otherwise, you could be a victim of a phishing attack and your data could be compromised. Never click links within pop-up windows, download “free” software from a pop-up, or follow email links that offer anti-spyware software. The links and pop-ups could be installing the spyware that they claim to be eliminating.
You may assume that the information you have on your computer is not valuable to a cyber thief. But think about it; access to your personal information, bank accounts and credit cards are all that cyber criminals need to steal your identity and create havoc in your personal life. Following these five cyber security tips will help you create a secure computer environment and protect your financial and other personal information.