8 Essential PC Security Tips

Protecting yourself and your PC from online threats is, or at least should be, an essential task for anyone who uses the Internet. No matter if you only use email or do a bit of online shopping, or if you spend 8 hours a day surfing the far reaches of the world wide web, there are several easy things you can do to make your online life safer.

1. Create Strong Passwords

Creating a strong online password is your first defence against malicious activity on the Internet. Anyone who uses a computer, a smartphone or a tablet will need to create a password at some point. But are your passwords strong enough?

It can be tempting to use the same or similar passwords for several different websites or apps. This can be a bad idea, particularly if your chosen password is something easy to guess such as your name or date of birth.

Password Rules to Live By:

  • Make Every Online Password Unique
  • Make Your Online Passwords Random
  • The Longer the Password, the Better
  • Use a Mixture of Numbers, Letters and symbols

Avoiding Easily Hacked Passwords

2. Improve Your Browser Security

The web browser is possibly the weakest link in the entire digital security chain. It’s the software product that’s on the front line, the one that will inevitably bear the brunt of any Internet attacks and as such, attackers focus a lot of effort on making the browser a portal into your system.

Securing your web browser isn’t too difficult. There are plenty of options available, including some third-party add-ons you can use to improve security.

Our guide to making Chrome more secure is a great place to start.

Make Your Browser More Secure

3. Install and Use a VPN

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is, essentially, a server or group of servers in a remote location that you’ll connect to through a client. The VPN servers will then hide your internet-bound IP address with their own, so if you connected to a VPN that’s located in Australia then your IP address would be as if you were actually sat at a desktop Down Under.

But there’s more to a VPN than simply gaining access to another country’s IP-specific services. The connection from your computer to the VPN server, via the client, is usually secure to the tune of 256-bit encryption levels, depending on the VPN company who is hosting the service.

Should You Be Using a VPN?

4. Use Your Operating System’s Privacy Settings

Being in control of security on your computer is important but almost as important is being able to control your privacy settings. Microsoft recently launched a web-based privacy dashboard tool which allows you to easily manage all aspects of your online privacy better.

There are, of course, still privacy options in the main Settings app in Windows 10. This is generally added to and improved with each OS update. The same is true for macOS, with plenty of privacy tools available in the system settings. The first step of improving PC security should be understanding how to maintain your privacy.

Beginners Guide to Windows 10 Privacy

5. Always Be Wary of Unsolicited Emails

Every year, in every developed country in the world, thousands of people fall for scams that originate from a single email. Some of these scam emails, such as the Nigerian prince emails, are well known and have been covered in the press extensively, but even so people are still tricked into sending their hard-earned money off to a stranger. Many people, who might otherwise think they are pretty switched on about these sorts of things, have fallen foul of email scams, which are becoming increasingly more refined.

One of the easiest ways of spotting a scam email is by carefully checking the spelling and grammar it contains. There will often be multiple spelling mistakes, even in company names, which would rarely be allowed to remain in official correspondence from, for example, a bank or building society. If you see a single typo, that might be expected, but two, three or four errors in a single email should been seen as a clear sign of a scam.

You can read about the others ways to spot a malicious email here.

9 Ways to Spot Scam Emails

6. Use Good-quality Antivirus Software

Viruses, malware, ransomware, trojans, worms! The Internet can sometimes seem like a breeding ground for nasty things that can ruin your day (and your computer). Having a good-quality antivirus program installed and set up properly should be a must for anyone who uses the Internet.

It is also important to understand the different kinds of online threats you could be facing. Learn to recognise and to avoid online threats like viruses and ransomware. And discover simple ways to avoid and fix them before the damage is done.

How to Avoid and Fix Viruses and Malware

7. Protect Your Hardware, Not Just the Software

If you care about your digital security, you probably have a PIN or password lock on your laptop or desktop PC. But there is another way to lock and unlock your computer: Using a USB flash drive.

Software such as Predator allows you to create a key on your old USB drive which, when plugged in to your computer, will automatically unlock it. When the “Key” is removed, the computer will lock again.

There are several different USB lock software options available, and almost all of the best ones cost money (although usually not very much. Predator is just $10 for the home version). If you want to try out a freeware USB locker, you can search for “USB System Lock” and “WinLockr USB Lock Key”.

You can read about other ways to use an old USB flash drive here.

10 Ways To Re-Use An Old USB Flash Drive

8. Check Your Flash and Java Settings

Flash and Java are superb entry points for malicious code to infect your computer and for snooping of various personal settings and data. Disabling both Java and Flash will prevent any such backdoors but limit your browsing experience on some sites.

There are numerous ways and means to greatly improve Windows 10’s security and privacy. Precisely how secure and private you want to get is purely down to you. You can read more extreme Windows security tips here.

10 Extreme Windows 10 Security Tips

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Russ Ware

Russ has been testing, reviewing and writing guides for tech since the heady days of Windows 95 and the Sega Saturn. A self-confessed (and proud) geek about all things tech, if it has LED's, a screen, beeps or has source code, Russ will want to master it (and very likely take it apart to see how it works...)

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