Hackers, viruses, worms, ransomware and spyware are only a few things that can do harm to your computer, network and in some cases your wallet. It can be scary to know how easily your identity can be stolen, simply by clicking a malicious link from an email. Although there are numerous ways in which a computer user can be attacked or exploited, there are also many ways you can protect yourself and your company from cyber threats.
Require employees to use strong passwords and change them periodically: Creating a strong computer password is perhaps the easiest thing do to enhance the security of your system. A user needs to set up a complex password, which uses special characters such as “#@!*&” as well as letters and numbers. A strong password should also be between 8-15 characters long. Passwords should never be written down and stored near or under your device. Updating your computer password periodically will help in preventing brute force password cracks. A brute force attack is a trial and error method where an application program attempts to decode a person’s computer password. The brute force application generates a large amount of passwords in order to find the right one and gain access to a target’s computer. The stronger a user’s password is, the harder it is for a hacker to potentially crack it. It is generally a good practice to update your passwords about every 90 days.
Install anti-virus software: Installing anti-virus software is a very important step in ensuring your computer network remains protected from viruses. Anti-virus software actively scans for viruses trying to get into your email, system files, and/or your operating system. A quality anti-virus software program runs periodic updates, which allows it to stay up to date with new viruses that are created daily. When looking for a quality anti-virus software package keep the following in mind: reputation of the company and product; features of the software, i.e., daily anti-virus updates, and compatibility with your computer. Another key aspect is the price of the software itself. When it comes to the cost of a product it’s important to understand that the most expensive software programs aren’t always the best. Also understand that free software programs although great for your wallet may not be the best for your computer either.
Install anti-spyware and anti-malware software: Malware and spyware can do as much damage to your network as a virus; with that said, it’s imperative that anti-spyware and anti-malware software be installed. Look for the same qualities in an anti-malware and anti-spyware as you would an anti-virus program. These programs should be able to run full system scans on your computer, periodically updating spyware and malware definitions lists, as well as quarantining and removing spyware and malware respectively. Most people prefer to simply purchase an anti-virus software with spyware and malware scanning and removal capabilities, but no one piece of software can find and remove everything. It is important to have a multi-layered approach to securing your computer system. A software program that is tasked with a specific purpose such as to find and remove spyware/malware allows for a more focused attack against those threats.
Perform daily full system scans: Viruses, spyware and malware are always continually evolving and as a result they can sometimes evade the protection systems you have in place and infect your computer system. Daily system scans via the anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware software should be implemented in order to find, quarantine and remove any malicious agents in your network as soon as possible before any and/or further damage is done.
Create a periodic system backup schedule: There are many types of malicious agents (viruses and malware) that can destroy the contents inside your computer. Creating a periodic backup schedule via your personal computer is a great way to ensure your data is retrievable should something happen to your computer. One backup option is a cloud service to back up information or a personal external hard drive can also be used. A cloud service would allow you to back up your data online. A personal external hard drive can be hooked up to your computer and with it you can copy your updated files to the drive.
Regularly update your computer system: It is very important to run regular computer system updates. Companies like Microsoft provide periodic updates to their software to repair any bugs and abnormalities with the system. If you don’t allow system updates, the abnormalities and bugs that remain in your system can be exploited by hackers. Make sure you allow updates as they are released.
Use your firewall: A network firewall is an essential tool to have; it acts as a perimeter around your computer and blocks unauthorized incoming and outgoing access. When setting up and/or configuring a computer be sure to take advantage of the built-in firewall capabilities of the operating system (Windows or Apple). The owner/user of the computer can update their firewall settings based on their preferences.
Use email with caution: Users of email should be careful when they are using it. Hackers can exploit an email in many different ways; hiding viruses in attachments for example. It is very important to not open or read emails from email addresses you don’t recognize, they should be deleted from your inbox immediately.
Use the internet with caution: It is important to know that even the safest websites can contain spyware and malware. All it takes is one click of the mouse for your computer to become infected with spyware. There are many websites that are camouflaged to look like real websites. When entering URLs, be sure to check the name of the website and ensure its spelling is correct. Avoid clicking on popups, ads, graphics and links to other websites.
Research basics of computer security: Computer security starts with the user. Taking the time to research the basic aspects of computer security will go a long way in not only educating you but also assisting you in making smarter decisions when it comes to protecting your computer network. There are plenty of books and online articles exploring various computer security topics that are worth reading. Being properly educated can only help in making an informed decision in figuring out how to properly protect your computer network.
These 10 cybersecurity basics for protecting your computer network only scratch the surface. There are many other ways in which you can properly protect your system. Aspects such as encryption and computer cleaners can assist in protecting your computers and its files. Keep in mind that taking the time to educate yourself about computer security concepts beyond this list will allow you to find other methods and technology to protect your computer against ever-evolving cyber threats.