How to Make Your Computer More Secure

Looking to secure your computer from viruses, Trojan horses, rootkits, spyware, keyloggers, ransomware, worms, and hackers?

Here are five tips to make your computer more secure. They include the implementation of antivirus and anti-malware software; use of a firewall to stop anyone from breaching important information; encryption of data and communication; data backup to make sure you have a copy of all data in case of loss or corruption; and regular system maintenance to prevent and correct any issues your computer has with data and performance.

Tip 1: Antivirus Software

Antivirus software detects and destroys computer viruses. A computer virus is code that is capable of copying itself to corrupt a system or destroy data. Antivirus tools are important and should be installed in every computer that accesses outside networks, including the internet. They should be kept up-to-date to combat new viruses that are being created on a regular basis. All antivirus software

  • Scans specific files or directories for any malware or known malicious patterns
  • Allows the user to schedule scans to automatically run
  • Allows you to initiate a scan of a specific file or computer at any time
  • Removes any malicious code detected
  • Shows you the health of your computer

There are a number of mainstream antivirus software providers.

Norton AntiVirus uses signatures and heuristics to identify viruses. Norton AntiVirus also includes email spam filtering and phishing protection services.

McAfee Antivirus works to block viruses from entering your computer system and kills or quarantines viruses that may have already breached the firewall of a computer.

Webroot stops viruses and worms that infect other computers and protects the user while using the internet by blocking harmful websites.

Many agencies certify and test different antivirus software to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Here are some of the antivirus certification and testing agencies.

VB100 is a comparative and certification system used to compare anti-malware solutions for meeting the basic standards required to be recognized as legitimate and a properly functioning antivirus or anti-malware solution.

Checkmark Certification “offers one of the most comprehensive testing and certification labs in the industry.” The company that offers this, West Coast Labs, is “a global leader in research, testing, certification, and real-time performance validation for information security products and services.”

AV-Comparatives is an independent organization that tests and assesses antivirus software, making charts and reports freely available to the public.

Tip 2: Anti-Malware Software

Anti-malware software protects computers from infections that are aimed at stealing data from the user or computer. Anti-malware software scans for malware using a database of known malware definitions or signatures. If the software detects a file that matches a definition, it is flagged as potential malware.

Another way anti-malware detects bad software is the use of heuristics. Heuristics allows anti-malware programs to detect threats that were not previously discovered. Heuristics identifies malware by behaviors and characteristics, rather than signatures.

Anti-malware can remove malware, however some malware is designed to cause further damage to your computer if removed. In this case, the anti-malware will quarantine the file in a safe area of your computer’s storage. Here are some of the different types of malware.

Worms are self-replicating computer programs that penetrate an operating system and intend to spread malicious code, typically to consume bandwidth, delete files, and/or send documents via email.

Trojan horses are programs designed to breach the security of a computer system, typically to allow hackers to gain access to a user’s system.

Rootkits are programs designed to hide, once an operating system has been compromised, by replacing vital procedures needed to run operating systems.

Spyware is software that gives users the ability to obtain information about another user’s computer activities to collect personal information or monitor internet browsing activities.

Keyloggers are computer programs that record every keystroke made by a computer user, typically to gain access to passwords and credit card information.

Ransomware is software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.

Many of the popular antivirus programs also bundle anti-malware tools within the software suite. However, one of the most common stand-alone anti-malware software programs is Malwarebytes. Malwarebytes offers smarter malware detection and specialized ransomware protection.

The importance of anti-malware software can’t be understated as there are many hackers from around the world trying to capture personal information, credit card numbers, and passwords in order to steal from computer users. Install some form of antivirus and anti-malware software to help protect your information and financial data.

Tip 3: Firewalls

A firewall is the part of a computer system or network that is designed to block unauthorized access while permitting outward communication. A firewall typically establishes a barrier between a trusted, secure internal network and another outside network that is assumed not to be secure.

If you have a single computer, then it is important to turn on the firewall within the operating system. If you have more than one computer connected, it is important to have a hardware firewall or router to protect the network, in addition to the software firewall, to prevent the spread of a virus in the network if one computer becomes infected.

Network firewalls filter traffic between two or more networks. Network based firewalls are positioned on the gateway computers of LANs, WANs, and intranets.

Host based firewalls provide a layer of software on one host that controls network traffic in and out of one machine.

Tip 4: File Encryption Programs

One way to freely distribute communication and data on the internet or between computers without issues is the use of file encryption programs.

Encryption is the process of transforming accessible data into an unintelligible code that cannot be read by normal means. The encryption process uses a key and an algorithm to turn the accessible data into an encoded piece of information. The decoding process uses a ciphering algorithm to render the data back into its original form. There are several ways to encrypt files.

Strong passwords are used when setting up an encryption process. The password acts as a decryption key. Make sure your password uses upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters and is longer than 15 characters. Another way to encrypt passwords is by using software called LastPass. Using LastPass means you need only to remember one password to access all your passwords.

Encrypting your hard drive is the most popular tool to encrypt your hard drive. Microsoft’s BitLocker is a full-disk encryption tool which supports Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption.

Encrypting your files is also important. Popular file encryption software is 7-Zip. 7-Zip is capable of extracting most archives that use strong AES-256 encryption.

Encrypt your online traffic by using the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension to access non-secure websites and keep your online traffic encrypted.

Use an encrypted search browser, one of the most popular anonymity network browsers being the Tor Browser. The Tor Browser allows you to access the internet anonymously.

Encrypt your communication and connect privately to any online location in the world. You can use a virtual private network or VPN. A VPN spreads itself across the internet, using its resources to create an encrypted channel that keeps the communication from being intercepted.

Hide your IP address by using a proxy server while you access the internet.

Encryption, however, is not always enough to thwart cybercriminals. To properly shield yourself from cybercrime, use all the tools in your security toolbox, including antivirus software, anti-malware software, firewalls, strong passwords, and regular backup of important data.

Tip 5: Backup and System Maintenance

Backing up is the process of archiving a copy of data if needed to restore the original after a data loss event. Backups have two primary purposes, to recover data after loss by data deletion or corruption and to recover data from an earlier time.

Data restoration salvages inaccessible, lost, corrupted, damaged, or formatted data from secondary storage or removable media files. Data recovery can return the computer to an earlier backup that happened before any data was lost or corrupted.

System maintenance is the modification of a system to correct faults, improve performance, and/or adapt the system to a different environment. System maintenance can include cleaning of the keyboard, monitor, mouse, and tower unit. Disk Cleanup is designed to free up disk space on a computer’s hard drive.

Preventative maintenance is proactively maintaining computer equipment before a fault or failure occurs. It involves routine tasks to ensure the computer system is running optimally. Some of the preventative measures that can be taken with a computer include regular updates, scanning for viruses and malware, and running cleaning programs.

Corrective maintenance involves the correction of a problem after the computer has already broken down. Corrective measures include removing viruses and malware, uninstalling harmful programs, reformatting the hard drive, and running a system restore.

Do these five tips interest you in becoming a computer technician networking specialist? The Computer Technician Networking Specialist program at Hunter Business School is designed to prepare computer networking students for entry-level positions in the fields of electronics, computer technology, and networking. Students build their own computers and use them in the learning process.

Contact us today to find out more on how to become a computer technician networking specialist on Long Island.

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