10 Ways to Protect Your Computer and Your Data

On a quick trip to the office supply store I ran into an old friend. He was buying a new external hard drive. This was to be a replacement for his home computer, which had been infected by a virus. He and his wife took a dream vacation to Ireland. The virus deleted all the pictures from this trip. He was sick about it. He explained how his son was in charge of creating backups on their home computer. Despite his son’s good intentions, he never did the backups.

Most of us have a general idea about how to keep our computer safe and secure. Although we have the best intentions, we don’t follow through on our computer maintenance. Some of us don’t know what to do. For the rest of us, we just plain forget.

Here are ten recommendations so you never have to lose pictures of your dream vacation, or worse trading data:

#1: Create backups and backups of backups

We all know we should create a back up of our data, yet most of us don’t. Worse yet, we may only make a single copy. Consider having multiple copies of your backup data. Store them in different locations and on different storage devices (e.g., cloud service, hard drive, flash drive, or even store a hard drive in a safe deposit box).

#2: Download Antivirus Software

At a minimum download free antivirus software and install it. You can use Microsoft Security Essentials (it comes with Windows), or services like Avast. Antivirus software isn’t all bad. It just isn’t enough on it’s own, but you still need to have it.

#3: Keep updated on vulnerabilities

It’s a good idea to keep updated on the latest news about Microsoft and online services. Two ideas are to subscribe to company and product blogs. They usually post any issues there. You can also set up a Google news search or Google Alert for phrases like “Microsoft windows security”.

#4: Enable your firewall

Internet hardware, such as cable modems, can be a point of attack too. Protect your computer by enabling it’s firewall. This prevents outside traffic from accessing your computer via the Internet.

#5: Understand passwords are interconnected

Social media and the cloud connect all your devices together. Realize hackers know if they can find a single password, such as your Facebook account, it can help them unlock your other online accounts.

#6: Use 2-step verification

To prevent any access breaches of accounts use 2-step verification. Many online companies allow you to set up a two-step verification system. You will be required to sign in online with a numeric pin as well as your password when you sign in from an unrecognized device. Set this up wherever possible.

#7: Change passwords often

Being as safe as possible, you should change your passwords at least one time per month. However, most people won’t commit to this; worst-case scenario change–your password every 90 days. Set a calendar reminder if you have to, but never let updating your password go beyond a few months.

#8: Install your updates

Make sure to allow Microsoft to install the latest software code updates to your operating system. Engineers constantly close vulnerabilities hackers expose. They do this through periodic updates. Turn on automatic updates. If you do it manually, check for them each week.

#9: Manage your email inbox carefully

Getting viruses from emails is very common. Don’t open emails from unknown senders. Delete anything that looks odd. Email can be a big security hole if you aren’t careful.

#10: Guard your clicks online

Don’t click on popups from sites you visit. Block them if you can. Don’t click on weird advertisements informing you something’s wrong with your computer. Avoid download and file sharing sites.

 

Most of these are common sense. These are simple tips. However, it’s hard to be disciplined. Our recommendation is to set as many things possible to automatically protect your computer and back up your data. If you have to perform a task manually, then set a Google Calendar reminder to recurring. Have the reminder email you each time a computer maintenance item is due—just like getting your oil changed on your car, or installing a new air filter in your furnace.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll never have to hide out at the office store in order to avoid the pain of fixing your broken computer.