The internet is a crowded space and has people with different intentions. What happens on the internet has serious consequences on the real world. This means that we have to apply the stay safe tactics of the real world when we get online.
There are many online threats such as identity theft, phishing, viruses, and ransomware all launched by people who are out to make a quick buck. You must, therefore, learn how to stay away from these hackers.
In this guide, we have information on how to stay safe on Windows PC, but the same tactics can apply to Mac too.
Common Online Threats and Why You Should Care
Many cybercrimes are launched with the sole purpose of making money. In some cases, it’s as simple as getting your bank account information or credit card number, however, you should be aware of the following opportunities:
Identity theft: if a hacker gets access to your personal data, they can sign-up for a credit card using your name. The victim ends up with debt that they aren’t aware of.
Selling logins: some hackers are constantly launching attacks to get access to username/password combinations for popular online accounts such as Netflix, World of Warcraft and Steam among others.
Once they get access to this information, they sell the data to someone else. Users end up getting locked out of their accounts and losing their purchases that are worth a lot of money.
Ransomware: a ransomware locks you out of your online device and you have to pay a price to get access. In many cases, paying the ransom doesn’t mean that the hacker will let you back in.
Blackmail: some hackers are constantly on the lookout for damning photos or information about their targets and once they get hold of this information, they threaten to leak that information to the public.
Rules to Stay Safe Online
Don’t open attachments or files from strangers: if you get a weird email from an address that you don’t know, do not open it. Even if it looks safe i.e. word document, it can have malicious macros.
There are other viruses that after you open the attachment, they take over your account. Do not open weird messages even from your friends as there’s a good chance it’s not from them.
Use Strong Passwords
Hackers use complex password cracking software to create password combinations in a matter of minutes.
Use a password that has at least twelve characters long with lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Never use common words when setting up a password.
Avoid using a universal password for all your websites. You can change just a small part of your regular password to keep it unique.
Do not Tell Anyone Your Password
Do not trust anyone with your password. If someone contacts you and says they’re from Apple, Microsoft or any other website that you have an account with, do not give them your password because it’s definitely a scam.
Others will ask you to log in and address some errors with your account. If you get such an email, check the email address to check whether it’s actually from Microsoft or Apple.
These scammers use similar addresses such as @applle.com instead of @apple.com.
Keep your Software Up to Date
You should always update your software to keep stay up-to-date with the latest security patches and fixes. You should always update your operating system, browsers, iTunes etc.
Avoid Using Pirated Software
Pirated software and websites they are hosted in have lots of viruses. It’s best to stay away from free stuff.
What You Should Install
A strong antivirus such as ESET, Kaspersky, F-Secure, and others. You should also update your Windows Defender and install Microsoft Security Essentials – these are free tools from Microsoft and are good at detecting Malware threats
This is one of the best browsers out there, especially the 64-bit version that makes uses sandbox technology to protect your PC against malware.
This browser is resilient to attacks and interference from other applications on your machine.
The most secure version is the Chrome MSI 64-bit that is available from Google’s browser for businesses page. This version cannot be modified by a malicious app without you providing extra permissions.
Some ads are being used by cyber-criminals to display malicious content. This is called “malvertising” where the user is baited to click on a link and install a particular program. Others will create malicious ads that trigger automatically.
Add ad-blockers to your browser such as uBlock Origin to avoid these risks.
Use HTTPS Everywhere to force many websites that do not support HTTPS to use it for secure communication over a network.
Use applications such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to get rid of all malware from your computer. With the free feature, you have to manually run the scans.
Use a VPN
When using a local Wi-Fi, you should use a VPN to encrypt your traffic and make it harder for hackers to intercept. You should use a good VPN when doing online banking and online shopping.
Use User Account Control to the Fullest
User account control might be annoying when you want to install a program but it is important for keeping malware away. The prompts will let you know what’s going on with your computer.
Just go to User Account Settings on Windows, click on “change user account control settings” and click on “always notify” and save.
Java is an outdated plugin and should be removed because many hacking applications are written in Java. Remove it from your browsers by typing chrome://plugins on the Google Chrome browser address bar. Click on disable if Java is enabled.
Always pay with PayPal, an online payment solution that doesn’t share your credit card information with anyone.
Make Flash Click-to-Play
Flash is a vulnerable piece of rubbish to the extent that even Adobe is encouraging developers to avoid using it. Google is also blocking flash content on its browser. In the meantime, it’s best to set it to click-to-play or just uninstall it.
Get Adobe Flash Uninstaller to remove it completely from your PC.
Run Regular Backup
Backup your crucial information on external drives or using cloud services.
Disable Your Microphone and Tape Your Webcam
A microphone and webcam are inbuilt features for laptops and all-in-one desktop PCs. These two pose a security risk as hackers can get access to them and hear or see whatever you’re doing.
These attacks are automated. Check whether your camera light is on when you’re not running any video or voice call application and if it is, then you should be concerned.