It takes a mix of healthy habits, smart security, and the right resources to achieve this.
The importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. We spend a considerable amount of time online and on computers. You have useful information on your laptop, tablet, or work desktop computer, which shady people would love to have. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew how to keep your computer safe from hackers and other digital dangers?
The good news is that learning a few basic tips and tricks that will greatly increase your online safety is not that difficult. Prepare yourself, because this is going to be a massive resource of practical guidance that will teach you how to use a computer and the internet effectively.
Developing Cybersecurity Habits
Our parents teach us general life rules when we’re young in order to keep us healthy. Before crossing the street, always look both ways or do not believe what strangers say.
Unfortunately, today’s technology didn’t exist while many of us were growing up, so there’s a clear need for the same kind of common sense, albeit adapted for the modern era.
Use a Password Manager and Strong Passwords
One of our best protection against being compromised is passwords. The password complexity on most websites is set to a minimum. For instance, they can stipulate that a password must be a specific length and include a specific mix of character types. Unfortunately, any password that a human being may easily recall is likely to be cracked sooner rather than later by brute-force guesses.
Using a trustworthy password manager is the safest way to keep your device secure from hackers. These password managers safely store all of your passwords and create randomised strong passwords that are nearly impossible to guess using brute force or other password cracking methods.
The good news is that most people won’t have to go far to find a password manager. Google Chrome already has one built in that is very capable. Strong passwords can be generated in the browser and synced to the cloud. You can download passwords from your Google Account anywhere you are logged in.
Protect anything with a password
Of course, something that might fall into the wrong hands needs to be password protected. Passcodes or passwords can be used on your device, phone, and tablet. Fingerprint or facial recognition biometric unlocking aren’t quite as secure. If your computer has a biometric kill-switch, it’s a good idea to become familiar with it.
This is a command or keystroke that disables all functionality except passcode entry. For example, if you are forced to hand over your computer or phone, they will be unable to access it without your code. However, they can point the camera at your face or put your finger on the fingerprint sensor.
Wherever possible, use encryption.
Encryption is a method of scrambling data mathematically so that it cannot be read without the correct key. Websites that begin with “https” use a secure encrypted form of data transmission. So you and the receiving website are the only ones who know what’s being said.
Just your IP address and the address of the website you’re accessing are visible to outsiders, such as your service provider or someone checking data packets as they move through different stops on the internet.
You should avoid not only websites that do not use encryption, but also chat services that have “end-to-end” encryption. A good example of this is WhatsApp. End-to-end encryption ensures that no one, including WhatsApp, can see what’s being said in your conversations.
Don’t put your confidence in anybody.
Impersonation and anonymity are two of the most serious threats you’ll face while using the internet. You have no way of knowing whether someone is who they think they are when you communicate with them. You can’t even be sure you’re communicating with a real human being anymore, thanks to artificial intelligence.
This means that getting some kind of third-party assurance that you’re in touch with the right person is critical. Even if the individual is who they say they are, you should be sceptical of their statements and promises. Treat them with the same level of suspicion you would a new friend in person.
Whenever possible, use two-factor authentication (2FA).
Two-factor authentication is a security mechanism in which the second component of the password is entered via a completely different channel. It’s one of the most effective ways to keep your accounts secure from hackers these days. For example, a one-time PIN could be sent to your email address or as a text message to a phone number. When you log into a programme, for example, you can be sent a one-time PIN via email or text message to a registered phone number. Having your password compromised isn’t enough for the bad guys to gain access to your account with “2FA.”
Of course, offenders can get around 2FA if they put in enough effort. They might even try to hack your email password or use a “SIM swap” scam to take over your phone number. However, since this entails a significant amount of additional effort and risk, it’s unlikely that you’ll be targeted in this manner at random. As a result, 2FA is one of the most effective deterrents available.
Defending Against Hackers
In the programming world, the word “hacker” has a wide range of meanings. Many people consider themselves to be hackers, and true hackers may not adhere to the picture most people have of them from movies. Nonetheless, hackers do exist, and you must be prepared to deal with them.
Let’s start by dispelling some common misunderstandings. Hackers aren’t just offenders. Legal hackers used to insist that illegal hackers be referred to as “crackers,” but the term never caught on with the general public.
White hat, grey hat, and black hat hackers are the three types of hackers.
“Ethical” hackers are also known as “white hat” hackers. They never violate the law, and all they do is with their targets’ permission. A business that wants to test its network security could employ a white hat hacker to conduct a “penetration test.” If they succeed in breaking in, they will take nothing and do no harm. Instead, they’ll report to the customer and assist them in devising a solution to their security flaw.
Grey hat hackers aren’t out to do damage, but they aren’t above breaking the law to satisfy their curiosity or find vulnerabilities in a security system. A grey hat, for example, might conduct an uninvited penetration test on someone’s system and then inform them of the results. Grey hats are criminals, but not malicious criminals, as the name implies.
When most people hear the term “hacker,” they immediately think of black hats. There are nefarious tech experts who want to make money or cause chaos. We’re all supposed to be careful of the black hat kind.
Be on the lookout for social engineering.
It’s easy to imagine hackers breaking into networks using high-tech methods, but the fact is that the most powerful tool in a hacker’s arsenal isn’t a machine at all. A device is just as powerful as its weakest link, and that weak link is almost always a human being. Rather than attacking a powerful technical infrastructure, hackers would focus on human psychology flaws.
Calling anyone at an organisation, such as a secretary or low-level technical staff, is a common technique. The hacker would ask for details while posing as a technician or an authority figure. Often the knowledge isn’t immediately evident as being sensitive.
Social engineering techniques may also be carried out via text chat, in-person, or via email.
Learn How To Recognize Harmful Emails
Malicious people continue to use email as one of the most popular methods of contacting you. It’s ideal because you can literally send out millions of emails and rely on sheer numbers to find a few lucrative victims.
Knowing how to detect malicious emails is the best protection against them. Any email that promises you unbelievable benefits in exchange for money should be ignored. It’s quick to laugh at the thought of a prince in a faraway land who will give you millions of dollars in exchange for a tiny sum of money now. Despite this, millions of dollars are robbed each year from people who fall for these con artists.
One of the most effective ways to spot these scams is to type the email’s text into Google or go to a site like ScamBusters. There’s bound to be a fraud like this already on the books. There are phishing and spear-phishing emails in addition to the general class of spam emails. These emails are designed to obtain information from you that will be used in subsequent attacks. Usernames and passwords are the most common targets.
A connection in a phishing email normally leads to a fake website that looks like your online banking facility or another site with which you have an account. You enter your user name and password, believing you’re on the real web, and hand it over to people who shouldn’t have it.
Spear phishing is similar except that those attempting to defraud you already know who you are. As a result, they will personalise the email to provide information unique to you. They might even try to impersonate your boss or a friend.
To avoid phishing attacks and keep your computer safe from hackers, never click on links in unsolicited emails. Often go to the site yourself and double-check that the web address is right. Spear phishing attempts can be thwarted by verifying the information with a second source.
If someone claims to be from your bank, for example, call the bank and ask to speak with that person directly. Similarly, call your supervisor, a neighbour, or an acquaintance and inquire whether the mail in question was received by them or not.
When you’re not at home, be extra cautious.
It’s easy to imagine hackers as people who work from afar, sitting in front of a computer in a dark room somewhere. In real life, someone sitting at a table in a coffee shop might be spying on you while sipping a latte.
Hackers can find public spaces to be easy pickings. They could try to deceive you in person by asking for personal information. This is the type of information that you’d put in a security query or that can be used in a social engineering assault. When you type in a password or show confidential details, people will actually look over your shoulder.
Public WiFi is a common hazard. Anyone on the same WiFi network as you can see the data that your computer sends and receives. They can also gain direct access to your computer if it is not properly installed.
If you must use a public WiFi network, the most important precaution is to use a VPN, which encrypts all data leaving your device. To prevent direct access from other users on the network, you can also use a firewall and label the WiFi network as a public one. When you first connect to a network, you’ll usually be asked if it’s private or public.
Last but not least, public USB devices should be avoided. Never insert a lost flash drive into your personal or work machine. Hackers also leave infected drives with spyware lying around in the hopes that someone will plug it into their device and grant them access.
Public charging stations can also be hazardous. When charging from unknown sources, use a USB cable that can only provide power and not data. Just in case the original charger has been replaced with a hacked version.
Combating Malicious Software
Viruses, spyware, adware, trojans, and other forms of malicious software are all examples of malicious software. We’ll go through each form of malicious program, as well as how to prevent or resolve the problem.
Viruses on computers
A computer virus, perhaps the most well-known type of malware, is a self-replicating piece of software that spreads from one computer to another through discs, drives, and email. Viruses aren’t self-contained programmes. Instead, they normally attach themselves to a valid programme and have their code executed when you run it.
Viruses have a “payload” in addition to creating copies of themselves to infect new machines. It could be something innocuous or slightly annoying, such as a message that seems to be laughing at you, or it could be something more sinister. For example, a virus that erases all of your records.
The good news is that viruses are incapable of spreading. They need your assistance! Antivirus software is the first and most critical safeguard. For most users, Windows Defender, which comes with Windows 10, is sufficient, but there are other options. Viruses for macOS and Linux do exist, but since these markets are small, virus authors don’t bother with them very much.
However, this is changing, and if you do use one of these operating systems, it’s a good idea to find an antivirus kit you like now, before new opportunistic viruses enter the market.
Apart from installing an antivirus programme, you can avoid plugging your USB drives into every old device you come across. Public computers, in particular. You should also be cautious about running apps downloaded from the internet that isn’t from a trusted source. Apart from being illegal, pirated software is a breeding ground for viruses and other malware.
This form of app, named after the wooden horse that snuck a group of soldiers into the city of Troy, poses as a legitimate utility or other useful programs. The user runs the software, and then the malicious code takes effect, much like a virus. Often, much as with a virus, the payload is determined by the creators’ goals. Trojans differ from viruses in that they are stand-alone programs that do not reproduce themselves.
While most antivirus software maintains a database of trojan signatures, new ones are created on a regular basis. This allows for the introduction of a few new ones. In general, you should avoid running any programme from a source you don’t completely trust.
This is a particularly nasty type of malware, and the amount of damage that ransomware can cause is enormous. Once infected, this malware secretly encrypts and hides your data, replacing it with dummy folders and files that have the same name. Different ransomware writers take different methods, but in most cases, the malware will encrypt files in places where sensitive data is most likely to be found first. Once enough of your data has been encrypted, a popup will appear requesting payment in return for the encryption key.
Unfortunately, once the data has been encrypted, there is no way to recover it. However, you can never, ever, ever give money to ransomware developers! In certain cases, testing the Volume Shadow Copy will help you get older copies of important files. However, storing your most sensitive files in a cloud service such as DropBox, OneDrive, or Google Drive is the most efficient way to secure yourself from ransomware.
These services all have a rolling backup window, even though the encrypted data are synced back to the cloud. As a result, you will return to the time before the files were encrypted. This reduces a ransomware attack from a global catastrophe to a minor annoyance.
Worms are another form of self-replicating malware, but they vary from viruses in one important way. Worms do not need any action from you, the user, in order to infect a computer. Worms have the ability to roam networks and join through insecure ports. They may also take advantage of flaws in other software programmes to execute malicious code.
What would you do to get rid of worms? While they aren’t as popular these days, make sure you have a software firewall installed on your device and/or router. Keep the applications and operating system up to date at all times. When it comes to security updates, at the very least. Of course, keeping the antivirus software up to date is also a must.
Spyware and Adware
AdWare and Spyware are two forms of obnoxious malware that can cause varying degrees of harm. AdWare almost never harms something on purpose. Instead, it will make advertisements appear on your phone.
This can make the machine unusable by cluttering the screen and using a lot of device resources, but your computer should be fine once you’ve deleted the AdWare.
Spyware, on the other hand, seldom causes direct harm but is much more harmful. This programme monitors the activities and reports back to its developer. To steal passwords, this can include recording your computer, watching you through your webcam, and logging all of your keystrokes. That’s terrifying stuff, and since it happens in the background, you won’t even notice.
Malware removal apps like AdAware can make quick work of these programmes, but you can also avoid infection the same way you would with trojans and viruses.
Hijackers in the Browser
Browser hijackers are particularly aggravating. This malware hijacks your browser and guides you to pages that support the malware’s author. This can include phoney or shady search engines. It may also mean being routed to bogus versions of websites or pages crammed with obnoxious advertisements.
The good news is that browser hijackers will be dealt with by the same anti-malware program that deals with adware and spyware. They’re also much less of a concern if you’re running Windows 10 because Windows needs your permission to make the kinds of changes that browser hijackers need.
You’re the most crucial component!
People are typically the weakest component of a computer security system, but they can also be the most strong. When you have the opportunity, try to stay up to date on the new cybersecurity threats. Try to follow the simple, common-sense safety guidelines we discussed earlier and learn to trust your instincts. While there is no such thing as perfect protection, this does not mean you must become a passive victim of cybercrime.