There are lots of bad guys out there in the cyber world. And those bad guys have created viruses, bots, worms, trojans, spyware, rootkits, and all sorts of sophisticated malware, in an effort to steal your data. According to the Nortn Cybercrime report there are over 1.5 million victims each day. Yet, most people can protect themselves simply by beefing up their computers and reducing their vulnerabilities. Here are seven tips and tricks for keeping your data and online identity safe and secure.
1. Keep your operating system updated.
When it comes to having Windows running smoothly and securely on your computer, too many users neglect to keep their software updated. But it’s important to keep your operating system refreshed with the latest security updates and patches, so that your system isn’t vulnerable to the plethora of new attacks that pop up every day. In both Windows 7 and 8, this can be easily done by turning on “automatic updating.” This will let Windows install important updates as they become available. Alternatively, you can manually install updates on your own, but this way Windows takes care of the updates for you.
2. Always have firewall and antivirus software running.
Most new PCs come with some form of pre-loaded firewall and anti-virus software inside of an Internet security suite, but too many people neglect to keep paying for the suite past the included free trial. The result is a neglected computer running an Internet security suite that is not up-to-date with the latest virus definitions and security patches. Even worse, many security suites will stop working once the free trial is up, leaving your PC unprotected.
I highly recommend Norton Internet Security for both home and small business users looking for an unobtrusive Internet security system. It comes complete with a firewall, antivirus, and anti-spyware features and costs just $49.99 when purchased online via a download. For that price, you get one year of updates, as well as the ability to run the software on up to three computers at once. That is an average savings of $30, compared to store shelf prices.
However, if you’re not willing to shell out that kind of money, I suggest downloading a free alternative such as Comodo Internet Security. That said, there are significant benefits to paying for a service like Norton’s, such as technical support. Furthermore, most free anti-virus and firewall software are meant for home use only, and are not intended for business use.
3. Keep your system updated.
If I had a penny for every computer I sat down at that wasn’t running an updated Internet security suite, well, I would have a lot of pennies. So it’s not enough to have a good system running; you also need to make sure that suite is updated with the latest virus definitions and patches.
4. Protect yourself from phishing scams.
Phishing scams happen when identity thieves try to steal your usernames, passwords, and other details by masquerading as trustworthy entities in an e-mail or on a website. Unfortunately, these days the fakes are starting to look more and more genuine than ever—so much that we can all use some help discerning the good sites from the bad ones. Fortunately, Internet security suites like Norton include phishing protection for your browser, while web browsers like Google Chrome also offer built-in phishing and malware detection that are turned on by default.
Alternatively you can use a free browser extension like the Netcraft Anti-Phishing extension, which offers extra insight into the site you’re visiting, so that you can make informed decisions before submitting your data and clicking on links on unknown websites. The Netcraft extension is compatible with both Firefox and Google Chrome.
There are over 1.5 million victims of cybercrime each day.
5. Practice safe computing.
There are some simple online practices that can easily help prevent hackers from getting access to your data. For example, never pay your bills or access highly confidential financial accounts while using a public WiFi hotspot.
6. Use a password manager.
For an extra level of security when it comes to protecting your passwords, using a secure password manager is the way to go. In particular, LastPass is one of the most secure online password managers out there, and it’s free. The service encrypts your password database and automatically logs you into your account on the site you’re visiting. This system helps further protect you from phishing scams and malware.
7. Choose a secure cloud storage provider.
Speaking of password-protecting your data, the number of cloud storage users is growing at a fast pace. According to a press release by IHS Suppli, cloud storage subscriptions are expected to jump to 625 million . So it’s especially important to use extra secure cloud storage services, especially if you’re using these services to store important business documents.
SugarSync is one such cloud storage service that excels when it comes to keeping your data secure. As a matter of fact, it uses 128-bit AES, which is the same level of protection used for most online financial transactions. It also offers a special plan for businesses which costs $29.95 a month for 100GB of storage that can be shared with up to 3 users. Last but not least, SugarSync has a free personal plan with 5GB of storage and is fortunately just as secure.