Security is important. Computer security basically consists of protecting data from unauthorized access. Data can be anything from files on the computer system over personal information of the user to tax documents, photos or credit card transactions. Many Internet users do not see it that way and reduce it to protecting the computer against computer virus attacks.
The following list of tips will improve the Internet security of the average computer user. They might sound like common sense to experienced users but it is often the case that average computer users only know some or even none of the following tips:
- Always keep your computer system up to date. This includes installing operating system updates when they come out and regular checks for software updates to see if an update is available. The core applications are the operating system, security software, web browser, web browser plugins like Adobe Flash, email client, any other software program that connects to the Internet and every application that is installed on the computer system. This sounds like a lot of work but there are tools and programs that can aid the user in this task (examples are SUMO, Secunia PSI or File Hippo Update Checker
- Install a good antivirus software and software firewall. There are many free and good solutions available from Microsoft Security Essentials or AVG 9 to Comodo Firewall. Good commercial alternatives are Norton Internet Security or Kaspersky Internet Security.
- Never click on links in emails, execute attachments directly or send personal information to someone asking for them. Take a look at our phishing flow chart and phishing attacks explained articles for further information about email security.
- Use a password manager that handles all your passwords and logins. The benefit of this is that you can select secure passwords like G8retv_er3.e3§fop without having to remember them as the password manager does that. The password manager can also perform automatic logins if you are on the right website which eliminates most phishing attacks as those usually lead to similar looking but fake websites on different domains. One of the best password managers is Last Pass which is available for Firefox, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.
- Backup important data. Backups are important because they ensure that data is safe even if it gets deleted. This can be because of a virus attack, accidental deletions, on purpose deletions, hardware failures or even PC theft. The 10 best windows backup software article lists ten free backup solutions for Windows users.
- Install security extensions for the web browser. This highly depends on the web browser in use. The Firefox web browser has the largest assortment of security add-ons from NoScript which blocks all scripts over privacy related add-ons like Better Privacy to safe browsing tools that display a website safety rating in the browser. Some of those, like Web of Trust, are also available for other web browsers like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
- Use common sense. Do you really think that 20 year old hot chick wants to talk to you? How about that guy from Nigeria who just needs $5000 to get $100000? A screensaver of Britney Spears? Common sense is one of the most important aspects of a security strategy. Criminals exploit human weakness and if it sounds to good to be true it usually is. Better safe than sorry should be the rule of thumb here. Common sense growth over time and the web users experience.
- Do not enter personal data unless necessary. Companies and criminals want to know more about you. The first to deliver targeted advertising, the latter to exploit those information. If you fill out every survey on the Internet, post personal information in blogs or social networks then you will get spammed and attacked eventually. One good option is to either use a fake identity on the web along with a secondary email address for that purpose or to avoid filling out personal information and leaving those “allow to send emails” boxes checked.
- Use WPA2 if you need to use WiFi. Many wireless routers support several wireless security standards, usually WEP, WPA and WPA2. WEP and WPA have both been cracked and the only relatively secure standard left is the WPA2 standard. If you have devices that only support WEP or WPA consider updating them or buying an extension card to add support for WPA2.
- Educate yourself so that you know the basics. You should know about the differences between http and https, what computer ports are and do and how to block software from connecting to the Internet among other things. Education along with common sense is essential for staying protected on the Internet.
Do you want to add anything to the article? Let me know in the comments.