The internet can be a scary place, with hackers and viruses, and data breaches in the news all the time. But in reality, it doesn’t have to be scary.

Cute Kitten

There are plenty of cute cat pictures…

 
Cute otter

Or maybe you prefer cute otters.


Now that we’ve had our daily dose of “Awww!” let’s get back to how you can keep your computer running properly.

  1. Keep your computer up to date. An out of date computer is an easy target. Microsoft and Apple push regular operating system updates that include security fixes – you should install those as soon as you can. The same goes for the apps you use on a regular basis. Keep them up to date! If you find out that an app you are using isn’t being updated regularly, or has been abandoned altogether, it’s time to find a replacement.
  2. Use an anti-virus program. They aren’t all created equal, but any protection is better than none. Personally Windows Defender (Security Essentials for Windows 7) should be enough. If you prefer to use a third-party option I recommend Bitdefender Free (their paid version is also fantastic).
  3. Don’t turn off UAC. It can be annoying, sure, but it’s there for a reason. If it’s popping up then something is trying to make changes to your computer, and you should know if that’s happening.
  4. Encrypt your hard drive(s). Windows 10 and MacOS both have encryption capabilities built in, but turned off by default. Turn it on. This will make it so that if someone gets access to your data, it’s completely useless to them.
  5. Keep your browser up to date. Following up on point 1, it’s worth saying again, keep EVERYTHING up to date. With so many apps moving to the cloud (aka online) more of your time is spent in your browser than not, so keep it up to date.
  6. Don’t steal stuff. It’s illegal, don’t do it. It’s also one of the most common methods of spreading malware.
  7. Use a password manager. You shouldn’t re-use passwords, but that isn’t easy when you have so many online accounts. Use a password manager, and let it generate strong passwords for you. Dashlane, LastPass, and 1Password are all good options.
  8. Stop using IE. Use Chrome or Firefox (preferably Firefox, for privacy reasons).
    1. Install uBlock Origin: ChromeFirefox
    2. Then install HTTP Everywhere

Following these 8 simple steps are the first steps to keeping your computer safe. If you need help with them, or want more information, let me know! I’m happy to help.

Hacked

As we’ve seen lately it’s getting harder and harder to protect your online privacy. Between Facebook and a seemingly endless stream of data breaches, what can you do to protect yourself online? It can be a little daunting, especially when you consider how many websites you visit every day, but there are a few things you can do to protect yourself online.

First, keep your computer up to date. Microsoft and Apple both release security patches periodically, and they do this for a reason, to keep your computer protected. If your computer is protected, your personal data is too.

Second, use Firefox. Firefox is faster and lighter than Safari or Internet Explorer/Edge. Not only that, Mozilla, Firefox’s maker is committed to making the internet a safer place, championing issues like privacy, misinformation and trolling by investing in fellowships, campaigns and new technologies designed to make the internet healthier.

Once you’ve downloaded Firefox, download Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere from the EFF.

Privacy Badger is a browser extension that blocks ads, and ad trackers on sites you visit in order to keep them from collecting data.

HTTPS Everywhere is an extension that forces your browser to encrypt data from websites, making it harder for it to be read if intercepted.

Use private browsing mode, or if you’re really worried about privacy, a VPN. Private browsing blocks sites from tracking you, stops your browser from remembering your history, blocks sites from storing cookies (a small piece of data sent from a website and stored on the user’s computer by the user’s web browser while the user is browsing). A VPN enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. If you’re using public wi-fi, you should definitely use a VPN. If you are looking for a VPN, I recommend NordVPN.

One last thing you can do to protect your privacy is to be cautious about what data you give away. When signing up for web services, only give the data that is required, and only if you absolutely have to create an account to use the service. It would be easy to say not to give your information out, but that isn’t realistic. What is realistic is to be aware of what you are giving out, and make sure that you are comfortable with that information falling into the wrong hands.

This list isn’t the be all and end all list, but it’s a start to protect your data. Good luck!

If you have any questions beyond this list, send me an email, and we can build a plan to keep you, and your data, safe.