How to Secure Your Computer
and Online Accounts
Invisible thieves are everywhere.
Charlie could hardly wait to start using his new laptop at his favorite coffee shop. After hopping on the free WiFi, he logged onto his bank account, email, and other personal accounts.
What he didn't know was that a hacker was digitally eavesdropping on everything he did. Sadly, three weeks later, unauthorized transfers were being made, directly out of his checking account.
When you don't know how to secure your computer, virtual threats are lurking at every corner. Luckily, there are easy steps you can take today, to keep your information safe all the time.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about protecting your computer and personal information online.
How to Secure Your Computer from Viruses
While software programs help you do things, malware programs steal your information. Viruses, Trojan Horses, and Worms are all types of malware. Each of these threats can attack your computer from the inside out while compromising your data.
Here are a few ways you can keep your computer and online accounts safe from any type of virus:
- Use passcodes for your device
- Create strong passwords
- Limit social media sharing
- Be wary of free Wi-Fi
- Close unused accounts
Having passcodes is the best first step towards learning how to secure your computer. The passcodes you choose for your device, are the gatekeepers that keep hackers and viruses at bay.
Your smartphone, and any other digital device you use needs to have a passcode. Let's say you were to forget your smartphone at a restaurant.
If someone found your phone, what would they be able to access? Do you have Auto sign-in features on your bank accounts?
What other secure accounts would they be able to access if you didn't have a passcode? It's terrifying to imagine a stranger having full access to all of your private information. However, if you don't use a passcode that's exactly what can happen.
Be Cautious of Free Wi-Fi and Social Media
One out of every three internet users is active on social media. If you’re someone who enjoys posting things online, make sure you’re doing so safely.
When you share too much of your personal information on social media, it can wind up in the wrong hands. One of the best ways to learn how to secure your computer is by noticing the type of things you’re sharing.
Pay close attention to the pictures and posts you shared, along with your privacy settings. Make sure that you're limiting the number of people who can see the things you're sharing.
If you have children on social media, it's a good idea to check their privacy settings as well. Have a family meeting, and talk about the right way to post things on the internet. Make sure your children understand what's safe to share, and what could jeopardize your digital security.
Next, you'll want to be cautious about using free Wi-Fi. While it may be convenient to log on in a free location, it's not necessarily the most secure option. This means, that with the right tools, anyone else using the free Wi-Fi could also access your information.
For example, if you use free Wi-Fi to log into your bank account, somebody could be digitally spying on you. Even if the Wi-Fi network is password protected, it could still pose a risk. Password protected Wi-Fi networks are only as safe as the individuals who have the password.
When to Use a VPN
To be safe, the best thing you can do is to save transactions of a personal matter for when you're on a secure network, such as your home. If you have to use free Wi-Fi, you should also use a virtual private network or VPN.
By using a VPN, you'll be able to encrypt your activity. When you encrypt your activity, you make it difficult for hackers to see what you are doing online.
Close Unused Accounts
Next, you’ll want to learn how to secure your computer, even when you’re offline. To do this, the next thing you'll want to pay attention to is your unused accounts. Take a moment to consider all of the online accounts you've opened overtime.
Even when you’re not online, the information you have stored in these accounts is. Out of all of the accounts you have made, what ones are still open?
Take a moment to determine what accounts you’re using, and which ones you never visit. If you have private information on an online account, and you're not using the account go ahead and close it. It’s common for hackers to look for private information, stored in emails, or other personal accounts.
For example, if you have an old email account, it may have private bank statements or other healthcare information. If a hacker was to access your old email, they could potentially use that information to steal your identity.
The less private information you have stored online, the safer you'll be. Go ahead and invest some time and find out what is on my account so you're not using, and shut them down completely.
Password Tips and Tricks
If you have an online account that you are using, you'll want to make sure you have a good password. To learn how to secure your computer with strong passwords, check out these tips:
- Don't share your password with anyone enter use more than one password answer
- Create a passphrase
- Create 12 character long passwords
- Use numbers, capital letters, and symbols
- Don't post your password in plain sight
- Use a password manager
First, you should never share your password with other people. It doesn't matter if they're dear friends or trusted family members. It's very easy for somebody to inadvertently pass your password along, and not even know they've done it.
Next, use more than one password. Unfortunately, you can't trust the individuals working on the website your passwords are on. Anyone working on a site where your password is, could access it and use it to break into other accounts you have at other sites.
To avoid this fiasco all together, use a different password for each online account you own. It's also a good idea to use a passphrase rather than a password. A passphrase should be relatively long, about 20 characters or more.
The idea is to create a phrase that consists of seemingly random words, symbols, and upper and lowercase letters. While the words may seem random to someone else, it should be words that mean something to you.
If creating a passphrase isn't your style, it's okay to stick with using long passwords. Make sure your passwords are at least 12 characters long because long passwords are more tricky for hackers to crack.
How to Store Passwords
Once you have your secure password created, you want to avoid posting it in plain sight. A lot of people fall into the trap of posting their passwords on their monitors with the post-it note. Not a good idea.
If you have to write your password on to remember it, had the note somewhere no one would think to look for it. Since you'll be creating passwords for multiple accounts, you should consider using a password manager. When you have a password manager, you only have to remember the one password to access the program or secure site that stores all of your passwords.
It's also a good idea to look into using a multi-factor authentication service. It's common for many services to offer an option to verify your identity if someone logged into your account from an unrecognized device.
When the login occurs, the multi-factor authentication service will contact you usually by text or email. You can also learn how to turn off 2-factor authentication for when you don’t need it.
Secure Your Computer from Every Angle
Unfortunately, even if you have the best passwords or passphrases, your information still isn't completely secure. Here are a few more tips to protect your computer's integrity:
- Use a firewall
- Install anti-virus software
- Install anti-spyware
- Keep your browser up to date
- Ignore spam
- Backup your computer
- Regularly shut down your computer
Firewalls create a barrier between your personal information and the outside world. A firewall can prevent any unauthorized access to your personal or business network.
Another benefit of firewalls is that they will alert you if anybody does a tent to hack your information. The minute you get a new computer, or on the computer you're using now, check to make sure the firewall is active before you go online.
Next, you’ll need to protect yourself from virtual spies and install an anti-spyware package. Spyware is a unique type of software that can secretly monitor and collect personal information. When hackers use spyware, they choose spy software that is specifically designed to be difficult to detect and hard to remove.
When you install an anti-spyware package, you instantly provide real-time protection for your computer. Your anti-spyware software will scan all incoming information and block any perceived threats.
Know When to Shut It Down
Another way you can protect your computer and online accounts is by regularly shutting your computer down. It's common for businesses that operate web servers, to have their systems running all of the time. However, if you're not operating an intricate internet-based company, you don't have to keep things on.
Instead, you should switch off your computer's overnight, or for long stretches of time if you won't be using them. When you're always on your computer, you become a more visible target for hackers. Regularly shutting down your computer breaks the connection a hacker may have made with your network.
Stay up to Date
Finally, make sure you're keeping your browser up to date. You should always stay on top of any new updates and install them immediately to your operating systems. It's common for updates to include security fixes that can stop hackers from exploiting your data.
Protect Your Information Today
Now, you know more about how to secure your computer and online accounts. It’s our goal to help our readers thrive online, without having to worry about any virtual threats.
We hope that our article will inspire you to take the necessary steps to begin protecting your data today. For more ways to get ahead in life, check out the rest of this site.