1 Protect your e-mail
With Outlook and other e-mail clients you can install a personal security certificate, which you can use to encrypt e-mail so that only trusted recipients can read it, or digitally sign your messages to prove that they come from you. You can get your own certificate from comodo.com and it doesn't cost a cent. The catch is that your recipients must use a compatible e-mail system ̵
2 Get virtual
Running programs in a virtual environment, instead of on your "real" desktop, makes it harder for viruses to sink their claws into your computer and if you get infected, It is easy to put your software back to an earlier state. "It is a complex matter to do," warns Anscombe. "But there are benefits. If I wanted to download something that I suspected, I would have it in a virtual machine and then disconnect the VM from the network before I open it. "However, virtualization is not a panacea. Many attacks are aimed at stealing your passwords and bank details; if you are tricked into revealing it, virtualization does not make a blind difference.
3 Keep a second, secure PC
Many computer infections are caused by people who visit inadvertently unreliable websites or download harmful software. Keep your banking and payment details secure by designating a second computer (perhaps an old laptop) as your & # 39; secure & # 39; device and play your games, email and internet elsewhere. Turn it off when it is not being used, so even if an opportunistic hacker manages to reach your network, they will not have access to your most important information. If there is no backup computer lying around, you can use a soft & # 39; wall & # 39; between your online accounts by installing a second browser on your main PC and using it only for secure transactions.
4 Clean your system
If you must use Windows, it is vital to ensure that only reliable software is running on it. Unfortunately, this can be tricky because new laptops are almost inevitably pre-installed with a ton of unwanted applications. These can stand in your way, hamper performance – and compromise your privacy and security by collecting personal information. The good news is that Windows 10 includes a new "Reset Windows" feature that resets the operating system to a newly installed state, removing all external software in the process. Make this the first thing you do when you buy a new laptop and you'll be rid of all those bundled items forever. Keep in mind that this will erase all personal files on the hard drive, along with bonus programs that you may want to keep. A more surgical approach is to open programs & functions, scroll through the list of installed programs & # 39; s and remove applications that you do not want or recognize.
5 Switch to hipster applications
It is not only the operating system that is vulnerable to attack. Cyber criminals can and will find security holes in all sorts of applications, and that is why we are constantly nagged to install updates and patches. Just as you can prevent most viruses by switching from Windows, you can reduce your risk by using less popular software that is targeted less quickly: for example, you can switch to the Opera browser instead of Chrome. Instead of Microsoft Office, consider LibreOffice (which has the added advantage of being free).
Darkness does not necessarily mean security, warns Anscombe. “If you see an unknown piece of software that you would like to download, you may not know if it will no longer be updated. It may contain vulnerabilities that are not patched. ”If you opt for the path that is less widely traveled, make sure that your applications are properly maintained or that you can expose yourself more than ever.
6 Browse the web incognito
With a virtual private network (VPN) service you can surf the internet from a supposed location. They are commonly used to bypass regional restrictions on streaming video services; the use of a private channel also hides exactly what you have access to, so your online activity cannot be tracked by your ISP, hackers or government spies.
To use ultimate security, consider the Tor web browser (torproject .org), a free tool that guides your traffic through a maze of servers around the world, making it effectively impossible for anyone to track or monitor your activity to follow. Tor is loved by whistleblowers, political dissidents and criminals, but it can be frustrating to use: when all your connections are forwarded via China, Brazil and any number of other countries in between, websites usually load very slowly.
7 Set your router to a stealth mode
If a stranger can reach your wireless network, there is no end to the problems they can cause. The primary way to stop them is to set a strong password, but you don't have to stop there. Buried on your router's configuration page, you'll find the option to hide the SSID – that is, the name of your wireless network – so that only those who know the name can find it and connect to it.
You can also make it harder for intruders to get to your network by lowering the transmit power so that devices in neighboring homes or outside on the street cannot get a good connection. "That helps ensure that no one else can use your router, but it can also mean that you can't do that," said Sian John, chief strategist for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at cyber security company Symantec. "Lowering the power makes life more difficult for hackers, but also for the person in your guest room who wants to watch Netflix at 2 o'clock at night."
A more practical approach is to coat party walls with a few layers of aluminum foil, which should cut the signal strength to your neighbors drastically. However, the security experts suggest that this is only for the real paranoid. "You can put aluminum foil around your house if you want," says John, "but it's probably the household equivalent of a tin hat around your head."
8 Do not use Windows
Microsoft has been ramping up Windows security for more than ten years, with technologies such as Windows Defender and User Account Control that block out old vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, the vast majority of hacking attacks and viruses target Windows: switch to a Mac, a Chromebook or even a Linux system and your exposure is immediately reduced. However, do not become complacent. "Windows has more threats because everyone uses them," John notes. “The more people use Linux or Mac OS, the more the bad guys start focusing on those platforms. What we see is that people are switching to a Mac, for example, and they think they don't need security software. So they get infected and the attacker gets full control of their system. ”
9 Check your online footprint
Whether you like it or not, there is a huge amount of personal and professional information about all of us who are circulating on the internet. And it's a huge security risk: a determined attacker can easily gather enough information to pretend that you're or a close colleague and gain access to things that shouldn't.
If you are concerned about your online profile, companies such as London Digital Security Center (londondsc.co.uk) will be able to search the internet for a fee to find out exactly what is available and to help you remove sensitive items. "It is the digital equivalent of a credit check," says David Emm, principal investigator at Kaspersky Lab. "If things are uncovered that you might not want to leave, maybe a photo has landed somewhere and you don't know how, then it is something to think about."
However, prevention is always better than cure. "Focus on what you share and check the security settings on your social networks," advises Emm: both Google and Facebook offer their own free "privacy check-up" services to prevent you from sharing too much.
John adds a final advice: "Google your own name and set up a Google Alert for yourself" so that you receive a notification when a new mention of your name appears online. "It is not in vain to set up notifications for your own name and address. It is amazing what you can discover."
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