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These days, protecting your data online is more important than ever. There has never been a time in history where we have so readily shared such a vast amount of data and while this makes life easier in many ways, it can also leave us vulnerable to malicious attacks.
Fortunately, with the right security software and a little bit of foresight, it’s possible to keep your data largely protected. This article will serve as a comprehensive overview to PC security so that you can start keeping your information secure and prevent data theft, hack or other issues.
What’s the Danger?
If you don’t own a website or manage a server, then it’s relatively simple to grasp the fundamentals of PC security.
The best place to start, is to understand why you’re at risk and what the danger is precisely.
Specifically then, there are a few reasons you need to add security to your PC. One is to prevent data theft, which is the end goal of a lot of malicious software and attacks. The other is to prevent your computer from slowing down due to adverts, or programs that steel your processing power.
There are other dangers out there too such as ‘ransomware’ but these tend to apply more to businesses and the same defense methods will apply.
What’s also key to recognize is that for the most part, you are not being ‘hacked’ by an individual who has specifically selected you as their target. With so many millions of users on the web, you would have to be incredibly unfortunate to find yourself singled out for an attack. Instead then, most attacks are automated and random. This is a ‘game of numbers’ for the hackers, so if you take some basic security measures then you’ll be safe.
Choosing the Right Password
A good way to demonstrate this is by looking at the basics of choosing a good password.
Choosing a good password means picking a string that is long and that includes random sequences of characters. Ideally, including upper and lower case as well as symbols is a good strategy. At the same time, picking a more complex username can also actually be advantageous.
The reason this is always recommended, is that attempts on your password are actually carried out by ‘robots’ or ‘scripts’ predominantly. These execute what are known as ‘brute force’ attacks, where they attempt thousands of password and username combinations together until they get a hit. This is done simply by going through the alphabet to try combinations – so a short password like ‘PASS’ is going to come up far quicker than ‘asjhjkaj123jj’. Some of these scripts will also try to be clever by using commonly chosen nouns in their inputs, which is why you shouldn’t use obvious words.
Types of Security Software
Malicious software meanwhile will sometimes go another route to try and steal your password: it will install itself on your computer and then record your keystrokes to identify when you are entering your password and what that might be.
One way to prevent this from working is to use your cursor when entering passwords –thereby selecting random points in the string to begin typing from. Much easier and more efficient though is to simply prevent that kind of software from being installed in the first place.
Likewise, this is how you can get rid of other types of ‘malware’ such as ‘adware’ or‘worms’. This will also help you to stay protected against the aforementioned ransomware if you run a business.
There are multiple different types of security software though, which include:
Anti-virus Software: This is software that simply scans your computer for known viruses and then deletes the associated files if it finds them. It can also scan attachments on e-mails and files that you download, to make sure that you don’t accidentally install such software.
Virus checkers are only as good as the index they reference to look for viruses. Thus it’s very important that you run updates to add new definitions.
Anti-Spyware Software: Whereas anti-virus software looks for programs like worms and may catch some spyware, anti-spyware programs will look for these types of attacks specifically. In one recent study it was found that roughly 9/10 computers carry some kind of spyware which can lead to data theft of various kinds.
Firewall: A firewall can be thought of as building a virtual wall around your computer. This should then prevent viruses from being installed, as well as blocking suspicious traffic on your network.
Others: There are many other types of security software that can also protect you from attack. These include password protection programs that help you remember multiple passwords and website reputation plugins and programs that warn you of potentially ‘bad’ websites.
How Much Security Software Do You Need?
If you have Windows, then you will actually have built-in security via Windows Defender. As long as you have this turned on, you shouldn’t actually need other programs like Norton Antivirus or McAfee. That said, if you want to upgrade your security there are more comprehensive options out there and especially when it comes to SpyWare. Avoid having more than one antivirus running at once though, as this can cause slowdown. The same goes for multiple firewalls.
How to Avoid Malicious Software
You can also help prevent malicious software from getting on your computer by using a little caution and common sense. Malware is most commonly found when browsing websites that give away software for free or that are otherwise breaking the law or providing ‘NSFW’ content (Not Safe for Work).If you suspect a website might be ‘dodgy’ but still want to visit, consider visiting it only on a mobile device – these are far less susceptible to viruses.
Likewise, make sure that you are careful when checking e-mails to avoid opening anything suspicious. Particularly dangerous are ‘phishing scams’ that mimic mails from official-looking organizations. These will often give themselves away with poor spelling, or simply by asking for your username and password – the real companies will never do this.