How To Keep Your Personal Computer Safe

Picture this, you walk into a restaurant showing off your $1000 laptop. You sit down in a nice corner, turn on your laptop and log in to your email account. So far, so good! Now, when you were busy thinking about how cool you looked when you opened your MacBook, you opened a malicious website.

You ignored the warnings your computer gave you. You also shared all your details, made an account on this ‘unknown’ website, and typed in the same password you use for your email.

A few days later, you’re back in the same restaurant, with the same laptop. You begin showing it off again and finally sit down in the place you sat before. You try logging in to your email account and suddenly…’Wrong Username or Password.’

Somebody else changed your password! And it’s not just your email account. Every single social media account you own has been reset  with your email account. You are screwed! Only if you had gone home and changed your password immediately.

Well, the lesson is that Personal Computer Security is very important. So, I did my research and found several articles on Kaspersky, AskLeo, and a few other websites! Here are some ways I found to keep your computer from harm’s way.

Use a Firewall

A firewall is a software between your computer and the Internet and only allows certain types of data to cross. This might seem complicated to some of you reading this, but it’s actually very easy. If you own a Windows-based system, just go to your control panel and type “firewall” in the search box. Check if it is ‘on’. If you own a Mac, click the Apple icon on your toolbar, go to “system preferences,” then “security,” then “firewall.” See, Easy Peasy!

Avoid Malware and Virus

Even with a firewall, Malware can easily end up on your computer, say you downloaded a Mp3 song for free from an unknown source or downloaded a torrent file or even opened an email attachment. Malware is short for Malicious Software and Virus is short for Vital Information Resources Under Siege. They don’t sound very good, do they?

The best way to avoid viruses and malware is by downloading an Anti-Virus software and a Malware Scanner. Toggle it so that it scans your entire drive daily. This might slow down your computer, but that’s way better than destroying your computer entirely.

Backup all your Files

I know ‘Backup’ is very boring- whether you do it manually or otherwise. Moreover, most people don’t have the time or desire to store all their data to a safer place. Some people don’t see the logic in using twice the space for the same files – one copy in your computer and the second in an external drive. But this kind of attitude goes away the minute all your files go away!

Backing up your data is very important. The damage done by almost any kind of malware can be quickly reversed if you have a recent backup to restore to. You can either backup manually, which is very time-consuming or you can use a software that does everything for you. If you don’t have a physical drive or enough space in your computer, you can use Dropbox or Google Drive which gives a 2GB extra space for free!

Update Regularly

Toggle all your software to ‘Auto-Update’ as you never know when the company decides to ‘upgrade’ their product, an ‘upgrade’ which is invisible to the consumer. On a more serious note, Software vulnerabilities that malware exploits usually already have fixes available by the time the virus reaches a computer. The problem? The user simply failed to install the latest updates that would have prevented the infection in the first place.

Secure your Networks

Most people get excited when they see ‘Free WiFi’ in Restaurants and Hotels but you should be extra careful while using these. Make sure your web email access – or, for that matter, any sensitive website access – is only via secure (https) connections, or that your regular mail program is configured to use only encrypted connections. Don’t let people “shoulder surf” and steal your password by watching you type it in a public place. Make sure your home WiFi has WPA2-security enabled if anyone can walk within range, and you’ve changed your router’s administrative password.

Switching to a Safer Operating System

Unfortunately, some of the world’s most private and secure operating systems are not as popular as Windows 7, Windows 8 or Mac OSX. The reason probably lies in the ugly user interface and ‘lack of design’ these operating systems come with. Some of these Operating Systems are very expensive, and distributed ‘exclusively’.

But the best part is that you can get an extremely secure Operating System for free. Among these, TAILS comes first as the most popular and probably the coolest. TAILS basically installs on a thumb drive and by default, all data is stored solely in RAM and complete erased when a TAILS session is exited. There are also other operating systems, like Qubes OS Project, Whonix, JonDO Live-CD/DVD and UPR (Ubuntu Privacy Remix) are also work equally well.

Doing some of the legwork on your own helps. Moreover, you learn a lot about Internet and Personal Computer Security. Please understand that everything mentioned above is a mere drop in the ocean, and Cyber Security is far more complicated and interesting subject.