computer security, types of computer security, personal computer security

Tips for Securing Your Personal Computer

Read Time: 5 minutes

It doesn’t matter what you use your computer for and it doesn’t matter if you have a desktop or laptop. It will always contain sensitive personal information. That information could be Social Security or ID numbers, credit card and billing info, your address, the names and details of your family members, and much more. If it were to fall into the wrong hands, the outcome would be disastrous. Fortunately, there are different types of computer security to protect this sensitive information.

Why Is Computer Security Important?

It’s important to protect your computer. Computer security allows you to use your device safely by protecting personal data stored on the device.

Viruses, trojans, keyloggers, malware and other malicious code can make its way onto your computer, almost always without indication. Malware and viruses can cause slowdowns, while ransomware can lock down your machine and prevent access. Most malicious code tends to run silently in the background. A keylogger, for example, will record your keystrokes and actions, reporting them to a remote party. This is generally how things like credit card numbers and other personal identifiers are stolen.

How do they get on there? Well, that’s the tricky part. Sometimes you might be tricked into installing them yourself, while other times they install without your knowledge. Clicking on an attachment in a shady email, for instance, could open up your computer to an attack.

Luckily, there are different types of computer security to lower the risk of a cyberattack.

1. Keep All Software and Drivers up to Date

Those Windows updates sure can get annoying, but there are just as many updates for other devices too, including Macs, Chromebooks, Android and mobile devices. They may seem like a hindrance, but they are vital to protecting your device and data.

Most updates include security patches, vulnerability fixes and sometimes bug fixes that help secure the system better. Almost all WannaCry victims — particularly nasty ransomware — were using outdated versions of Windows, which is why they were infected. In fact, many attacks can be thwarted simply by updating your system and its software.

That includes updating apps and software regularly, device and component drivers, and even web add-ons like Flash or similar extensions.

2. Use a Firewall

Most people think that anti-virus software is the end-all-be-all when it comes to cyberattack protection. That’s not true at all. Virus software can be useless if you don’t have the right tools to complement it.

There are many types of computer security, but some rank higher than others when it comes to effectiveness. What you need is a secure firewall that closes up the network ports and prevents unauthorized access to your system. Windows includes a firewall built-in to the OS, as does Mac — which is disabled by default. Many companies offer free firewall software and there are also firewall apps for your mobile devices, too. Do your research to determine what option works best for you.

3. Use a VPN

Everything you do on the internet can be attributed to your IP address, which is remarkably similar to your physical home address. Your router is assigned a public IP, and every device on your network is assigned a local IP. Any websites you visit, connections you make or content you stream can be linked to that IP.

Someone on the outside can use that information to see what you’re doing, what sites you visit and much more. They can even reverse-lookup the IP to find your address. When it comes to types of computer security and their importance, this tip is definitely close to the top.

That’s why you need a VPN, or virtual private network. It’s a unique tool that masks your real IP with a fake one so no one can see what you’re doing or who you are. It’s about more than just hiding your identity, though everyone deserves privacy — it’s about protecting yourself from outside threats. Choose one, install it on your main computer, and preserve your identity and browsing history.

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4. Use Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware Software

Some of the most common computer problems you’ll experience, such as system hangups, app slowdowns and crashes, can be attributed to malware or viruses. It’s important to remove them as soon as possible to maintain the health of your computer, but also to protect your data and activity.

To remove the malicious code, you need the appropriate tools. More importantly, they must be able to deep-clean your system, which means safely delving into intensive system files. You don’t want just any application rooting through your system, so take some time to find solutions that are trustworthy. What makes that last point important is that there are hundreds — if not thousands — of different anti-virus and anti-spyware applications on the market, some free and others not.

Bitdefender, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, Kaspersky Free, Avast, Windows Defender, AVG — the list is endless, and we could go on for days. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get good protection. In some cases, you don’t even have to pay at all.

When it comes to the types of computer security you have access to, anti-virus and anti-malware software is a must-have.

5. Clear Your Browsing History Regularly

All browsers store sensitive information in the background. This includes the names and URLs of sites you visit, payment information, form data and more. Clear this data out regularly. All browsers can do this, from Chrome to Safari. There are third-party tools that will help you clear out browsing history too, such as CCleaner.

6. Use Strong Passwords, and Never Reuse

Don’t reuse old passwords when asked to come up with a new one. Ever. Don’t take the same password you use for accessing a bank account and use it for another online account. Also, make sure your passwords aren’t similar enough that a bot could guess it by changing one letter or symbol.

Choose strong passwords that include both upper and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. If you have a difficult time coming up with passwords on your own — and remembering them — don’t fret. There are a ton of password management apps that can simplify the process.

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7. Encrypt Your Data

Data encryption essentially scrambles the raw information stored on your computer and locks it away. It only allows access with the appropriate key. Many online and connected devices use a form of encryption to lock down data. However, if you want to secure local content, you’ll need to do it yourself.

Tools like VeraCrypt and BitLocker can help with this. Encrypt anything that can cause damage, including online traffic, account details, communication and chat logs, personal files and more.

Stay Vigilant, Stay Protected

The reality is that maintaining personal security — both online and off — is an activity you should practice regularly. You’ll want to change passwords every month, for example, especially for online accounts. You’ll want to regularly clear browsing history and cache data. Store all sensitive files locally and encrypt them too. Finally, lock down your computer with the help of numerous security tools like anti-virus, malware, firewall and VPN software.

In this day and age, your digital security is not something you can neglect lest you reap the consequences. Those consequences are never good.

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Category: Tech

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. Megan is also a regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights, and Real Clear Science. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking, and stargazing.