You’re cruising the internet. You click on a link. And all of a sudden, your computer is running at a snail’s pace.
It’s clear to you: you’ve fallen prey to a hacker.
What you might not know, however, is that you could have prevented this from happening. And while you can’t do anything to turn back time, you can do something to protect yourself in the future.
Curious as to your options? Then read on. This is how to protect your computer from hackers.
Download an Anti-malware Program
First and foremost, you need to download an anti-malware program. Anti-malware programs are designed to stop malware in their tracks, eliminating much of the risk of your computer incurring a virus.
There are both free and paid anti-malware programs available, with both kinds offering anywhere from great to sub-par results. Some of the best include Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, AVG AntiVirus, SpyBot Search & Destroy, and Kaspersky.
If there’s one thing you’re going to do to protect your computer from harm, this is what you need to do. It alone won’t solve the entire problem, but it will solve a large portion of it.
Install a Firewall
In addition to downloading an anti-malware program, you should also install a firewall. Firewalls are similar to antivirus programs but differ in how they protect their respective computers. Whereas an antivirus protects a computer from internal viruses, a firewall protects a computer from uncertain traffic.
There are both free and paid firewalls available. Some of the best include Fortinet, Firewalla, OPNSense, and SonicWall.
Use Encrypted WiFi
WiFi networks are everywhere, from McDonald’s to the mall to the park to your home and otherwise. And while some of these networks are safe for use, many of them are not.
The reason for this? They’re not encrypted.
Encrypted WiFi networks are like fortresses against hackers. While they can still be broken into on rare occasions, they are much more difficult to break into than are unencrypted WiFi networks. As such, hackers tend to leave them alone in favor of more vulnerable networks.
For this reason, if you’re going to be using a WiFi network, you need to make sure that it’s encrypted. Or, at the very least, keep your unencrypted WiFi usage to a minimum.
It’s also a good idea to switch up your network password from time to time. The more you switch it up, the lower the risk of hackers figuring it out.
Be Careful with Cloud Storage
Cloud storage is a cheap and effective way to store an exorbitant number of computer files. However, that doesn’t mean that it should be used to store every file on your computer. In truth, some files are too important to be stored on a cloud.
See, while fairly secure, cloud storage has vulnerabilities. It’s just floating around out there, perpetually prone to the whims of hackers. So, while it’s effective, it’s also in a position where it can be compromised.
For this reason, it’s best to keep your most sensitive files (ie. tax info, bank information, etc.) off of it. Instead, it should be limited to the storage of photographs, school reports, music files, and the like.
Update Your Software as Much as Possible
Updating software can be a pain, especially when you actually need to use your computer. But the fact of the matter is that your computer is safest when all of its software is up to date.
Why is this? Because outdated software is more likely to have been figured out by hackers. They know its weak spots and exploit those weak spots as much as they can.
Developers know this and are constantly trying to combat hackers’ efforts. This is one of the primary reasons that software updates are so prevalent.
The most important updates to make are operating system updates (ie. Windows, MAC, etc.). That said, any program existing on your computer could become the welcome door to a virus. As such, you should update each of them every time you’re alerted to.
You can learn more about protecting a MAC operating system by visiting https://setapp.com/news/the-ultimate-mac-user-book-by-setapp-is-out
Make Password Usage a Priority
One of the biggest keys in keeping a computer safe is to use passwords . . . on everything. Not only should you set a password to get into your operating system, but to get into your software and your online accounts as well.
The more passwords you have, the harder your programs will be to access. The harder it is to access your programs, the less attractive your computer will be to potential hackers.
When creating passwords, be sure to make them as complex as possible. You don’t want your password to be something like “ilovedad”; Instead, you want your password to be something like “TxisFs101!”. Yes, it’s difficult to remember, but it’s also difficult to figure out.
Never use the same password twice. Each program or account that you sign into should have its own dedicated password. If you use the same password for every program, every one of your programs runs the risk of being hacked in quick succession.
To keep track of your passwords, you should consider using a password manager program. LastPass and 1Password are both solid options.
Additionally, you should change your passwords every year or so. Changing your password throws hackers off the scent, reducing the amount of time that they have to crack open your programs.
Take Proper Advantage of Security Questions
Do you know those mundane questions that you have to answer when you’re signing up for an online banking account? Well, they’re more than just mundane questions. In truth, they could end up being the last line of defense for your banking information.
As such, when answering them, you should make your answers as unique as possible. When answering a question such as “What was your first job?”, don’t just answer with “lifeguard”. Answer with something elaborate like “watcher of the waters”.
“Lifeguard” is easy to figure out. “Watcher of the waters”, on the other hand, is highly unlikely to pop up into a hacker’s brain.
Be Vigilant With Emails
As you likely know, hackers routinely try to attack computers through email. In most cases, they do this via links. Should you click on one of these links, a virus will spread, slowing your computer down and leaving sensitive information vulnerable.
So, what can you do to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you? There are a few things.
First, instead of clicking on links as soon as you see them, hover your cursor over them. This will allow you to see the URL without actually having to visit it. Then, if it looks funny to you, don’t click on it.
Second, analyze the email closely. If it’s about something that you’re not at all familiar with, it’s likely a scam. For instance, if you’re being offered free money out of nowhere, it’s probably not legitimate.
Lastly, you can use search engines to see whether anyone else has encountered such an email. To do this, just type the subject line or the name of the sender into Google. If it’s a fraud, Google will let you know.
Be Wary of Unfamiliar Websites
It’s rare that a high-profile website would ever cause your computer to get a virus. Low-profile websites, on the other hand, are a different story. So, if you come across an unfamiliar website, you need to be wary of it.
In some cases, these websites are made specifically to give visitors viruses. In other cases, they themselves have been infected with viruses. Regardless, visiting them makes you vulnerable.
But what makes you even more vulnerable is entering your sensitive information. So, if the website asks you to sign up or sign in, you should leave immediately.
Switch Out Your Router
If you want to be as safe as possible, you should switch out your router every few years or so. See, as a router becomes outdated, its vulnerabilities become common knowledge to hackers. As such, they have little difficulty breaking through them.
But by switching your router out, you stay up to date and one step ahead of the hackers at all times. Generally, it’s recommended that you replace your router every 3 to 4 years.
That’s How to Protect Your Computer from Hackers
And there it is, that’s how to protect your computer from hackers. If you hope to keep your computer running at max capacity, you’re advised to put these tips into action. Not only will they help to maintain your computer’s performance, but they will also help to protect your personal information.
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