With computers and mobile devices playing more important roles in our daily lives, safeguarding the information stored on those devices has become more important – yet seemingly more challenging.
As hackers become increasingly sophisticated, and criminals gain automated tools that don’t require technical expertise to use, it seems harder and harder for average users to protect their devices, but some basic precautions can help reduce the risk.
For starters, it’s important to understand — and help employees understand — the risks associated with phishing email messages. These messages, which try to trick users into clicking links or attachments that install malicious software, account for around a quarter of all cyber attacks reported by small businesses. Phishing messages often appear as invoices or shipping notifications, making it difficult for untrained workers to spot the potential dangers.
It’s also important to make sure worker computers don’t have administrative accounts that allow users to install software or change important critical security settings. Preventing the installation of software reduces the risk of malicious applications being added to your company computers without the user’s knowledge.
Some additional tips for safe computing:
- Use protective software. Anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software can do a great deal to protect you. Once you install this software, don’t turn it off and update it regularly.
- Keep your software up to date. It’s not enough to update your anti-virus software. Other programs are vulnerable too. Use auto-update features where you can.
- Update your operating system, too. Like software, your operating system (i.e., Windows or Mac OS) has vulnerabilities that updates can fix.
- Protect your computer physically. For example, if you have a laptop, never leave it unattended. That goes for public places but also for hotel rooms and the like.
- Install remote-wiping software to prevent people from accessing data on lost or stolen devices.
- If you’re not using a webcam, cover it. A camera could be turned on without your knowledge allowing a hacker to watch you. The easiest way to protect yourself against this is to grab some tape and cover your camera.
- Turn your computer off when you’re not using it. If a hacker did manage to make a connection to your computer, they can’t take advantage of that connection if your computer is off.
- Back up often. If your computer is compromised, you’ll be grateful that you have a copy of all of your important files. An external hard drive can be used to store all of your data in a separate location.
- Dispose of your computer properly. Getting rid of your computer can be dangerous because just deleting your files is not enough. You have to erase the hard drive altogether to make your information unable to be recovered.
While there is no foolproof way to protect your computer or mobile devices, taking these steps can reduce your chances of falling victim to an attack.