As we become increasingly reliant on our computers in an on-line world, we need to be sure that our devices and data are as protected as they can be. Here are some tips to increase your security.
1. The primary line of defence is you
Don’t rely purely on your firewall or anti-malware software to protect you. Stay alert and vigilant when using your computer.
2. Be wary of phishing scams
These are most frequently received via email (for example, being asked to change invoice payment details). If in doubt, follow up with a phone call to confirm the authenticity of the email. In addition, be aware that scams can arrive by text, social media and phone.
3. Keep your software up to date
Ensure that automatic updates are switched on for your operating system – this includes your PC, smartphone and other devices such as tablets. If your smartphone is no longer receiving updates, consider upgrading to a more recent model.
Your web browser and any plugins (such as Java) should be updated regularly: consider using Chrome, Edge or Firefox.
Remove unnecessary programs.
4. Be click savvy
Email attachments or links in email should always be treated with a degree of suspicion (even from trusted sources).
Check that websites are secure before logging in (they should have a lock icon in the address bar).
Don’t download software from untrusted websites as it may contain malware that will automatically install and infect your computer.
On mobile devices, only install software from trusted sources such as the Google Play Store or Apple App store.
5. Lock your device
When leaving your device unattended, always ensure that it is locked (Windows key +L on PCs, Command+Control+Q on Macs) and that it is protected by a secure PIN or password.
Data on external devices such as USB sticks and drives should be encrypted and kept securely when not in use.
6. Ensure that your network is protected
Enable the firewall on your router.
Use strong encryption on Wi-Fi networks.
Ensure network ports that are not in use are disabled.
When using a public network, don’t transfer any personal information.
7. Practice good password management
The number of passwords we have to manage is ever growing and it can be tempting to take shortcuts by reusing the same password. A password manager such LastPass or RoboForm can not only save you the effort of having to remember them all, but will also generate strong passwords and store them securely in an encrypted format.
If you don’t use a password manager, ensure that your passwords are strong, i.e., at least eight characters long, have a mixture of upper and lower case characters and at least one symbol or number. If the password field will allow it, a phrase that is known uniquely to you can be a good password.
If you suspect a password has been compromised, change it immediately and change it on services where the same password may have been used.
8. Install anti-virus/anti-malware software
Any anti-virus software should be kept up to date and any new definitions should be installed as soon as they become available.
Don’t rely on your anti-virus software as the first line of defence – it is just one of a useful tool in computer and data security.
9. Backup up your data
If your PC or data is affected by a security incident, for example a virus or encrypting malware, the only guaranteed way to retrieve the data is from a backup.
Make sure that your backup system is easy to use, backs up regularly and has provision for off-site storage of the backup media.