Tips to (for the most part) keep your PC safe.

One things that’s been in the news lately about technology that’s got many stirred up is security. This aspect of IT is very important, because without some way to prevent people with malicious intent from getting on your PC or into your network, you may find yourself on the victimized end of a few crimes. Here’s a list of things that are pretty easy to do, but in turn will deter most hackers from gettin’ all in your business!:

1.) Long passwords with not-very-easy-to-guess words. I am absolutely amazed at how many people I know that have an extremely short password, and then even that short password is easy as pie to guess. People who have access to the internet or Hollywood movies know that your password could be Password1, 123456, your kid’s name, your own name, your anniversary date, your birthdate, etc. I’m not saying make such a complex password that you can’t remember. What I am saying is make it something that isn’t public knowledge so no one could get that information easily. Also, following these tips will definitely help: http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/passwords-create.aspx

2.) You are your own worst enemy. Most cyber criminals these days aren’t amazing virus writers. They don’t sit from afar and hack away at security setups all day, because they have something much easier to go after: the user. Most people are fairly uneducated about computers, so when they see something that asks for permission to run, many people just click Yes or Run without a care in the world, not knowing that they may have given away the keys to the castle. Never allow anything to run that you’re unsure of, and ask questions or use good ol’ Google or Bing to figure out if what you’re about to run is safe or not. 99 times out of 100, you’ll find that answer somewhere online. Same thing applies to someone asking for personal information or passwords…it’s best to just not do it unless you know who they are or were expecting their call.

3.) Keep everything patched. Many virus writers even admit that an unpatched PC or piece of software is their bread-and-butter. Flash Player (the plugin you need to run many things, including the ability to watch Youtube videos) is a good example of a simple piece of software that, when left unpatched, big problems happen: http://news.techworld.com/security/101610/new-flash-hack-underway/. For the most part, good software alerts you when it needs updated, so you just have to give it the go-ahead. Some software, like the Google Chrome browser, updates itself automatically, and without bothering the user with prompts or messages. Just make sure in these scenarios, your PC is connected to the internet, and you never tell it no to an update unless you know what you’re doing. Or if it looks suspicious as well (refer to Google/Bing again for that as well).

4.) Learn good browsing habits. By now, many people know that certain sites are more likely to give your PC viruses than others, yet so many people with this knowledge in their head still visit these sites. Not judging anyone’s lifestyle choices, but if you like to keep your PC healthy and your personal information safe, it might be time to reconsider. Going off that topic, there are other sites that have viruses too, so it’s generally advised to stay on sites that are trusted as much as possible (Google, Bing, Yahoo, MSN, YouTube, Vimeo, Amazon, eBay, etc.). If you know what you’re doing, then by all means visit wherever you wish. But if you’re the one that doesn’t know MSN from a VPN, play it safe.

5.) Use anti-virus software that scans regularly. Even if you have the best browsing practices, you may still end up getting an infection here and there. Use a reputable anti-malware company’s product to keep these baddies at bay. For those who think there’s only good stuff that comes to you when you fork over some cash for their products, try looking at this site under the Anti-Malware tab: http://www.filehippo.com/ (personally using Avast! on all my machines right now).

6.) If you use Wifi in your house, you should really find out if your router is using WPA2 security. In a nutshell, a router can either be open and unsecure (worst), needing a password to connect using WEP security (only slightly more secure than keeping it open), or needing a password to connect using WPA or WPA2 security (2 being newer and more secure). Setting up WPA2 security should be in the user manual of your router, or you could always search online for it. This really isn’t a difficult thing to do, and will add one extra barrier in front of anyone trying to use your internet for free or trying to steal information from the devices that you’re using Wifi on.

7.) Ask for help. When things are going wrong, your machine is being slow or acting strange, you’ve already followed the steps above to no avail, and you don’t know what to do, go to a friend or trusted associate and ask for help. If they aren’t available, try to find a reputable repair shop nearby to help you figure it out. Although it’s tempting, I almost never recommend any of the “magical fixes” for computer problems that promise amazing results. Often these companies are selling you a piece of software that does some cleaning up and virus scans, which by itself is no problem. However, oftentimes the cleaning up process removes things that are essential to the proper working of your PC, and so then after using these products, you may be worse off than you were before.

Although this isn’t a complete list of all things that can be done to make as safe a PC as possible, it will definitely take care of a majority of computer problems that I see people face on a regular basis.

If you have any questions, comments, or would like to leave a suggestion for the next post, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below. Thanks for your time, and I hope this advice helps!

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