How to Keep Your Home Computer Safe

A 2016 survey reported that more than one-third of U.S. consumers experienced a computer virus, hacking incident, or other cyber attack in the past 12 months. It’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month and you’ll see many more alarming statistics like this.

How to Keep Your Home Computer Safe

Turn away from the alarming numbers for a moment, and take action by performing a home check-up of your devices. Here are 6 tips to help keep your home computer – and your home network – safe.

  • Keep Your Software Up to Date.  Whether it’s your operating system, your security or anti-virus software, or another program, one of the most effective ways to protect yourself is to install updates. Updates – also known as patches – are the way that developers respond to vulnerabilities and fix problems. Automatic Updates in Windows can help you automate the update of your operating system. Automatic options are also available for the Mac operating system. If you’re asking, “How do I know if my programs are up to date?” – there’s an answer for that as well. To help you update your programs,  type ‘software update programs’ into your favorite search engine to find many options for programs that scan your computer and notify you of available updates.
  • Backup Your Computer. Yes, it’s better to prevent a security attack in the first place but, if your computer is targeted, you will be very thankful that you have a recent backup to restore from. There are many free backup software packages that will help you automate this process, and both Microsoft and Apple provide built-in backup options you can explore.
  • Secure Your Wireless Router. Change the pre-set password on your router, and make it a strong password (at least 12 characters and with a mix of numbers, letters, and symbols). Choose a high level of security on the router: opt for WPA2, if available, or WPA. They’ are more secure than the WEP option.
  • Use a Secure Web Browser. Choose a browser that has sandboxing functionality to help insulate against threats. Also, evaluate the browser in light of how often the developer releases updates to address issues.
  • Use a Firewall. Use a firewall on both your router and your computer. Determine if your router has a built-in firewall and, if so, follow best practices for enabling it and configuring the firewall. You can take advantage of firewalls built into popular operating systems, or evaluate third-party firewall providers.
  • Think Before You Click. Avoid opening unknown emails. Don’t click on suspicious links in emails. Ignore deals that seem too good to be true. Don’ not give out sensitive information (like a social security number or bank information) unless you trust the website.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month usually delivers some scary statistics. Tame some of the fear with the recommendations in this blog post.

Marianna Noll

Marianna Noll

Marianna Noll is a Maryland-based writer with an interest in the impact that technology has on organizations and users. She writes about software, user adoption and engagement with software, and IT security.

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