Today we will be going over what steps you can take to keep your computer clean, protected and safe.
After all, you probably spent quite a bit of money on your machine so you should take care of it! Protecting the information that you store in your investment will allow you to remain safe from intrusion and fraud.
The general consumer checks on their various social media outlets to see how their friends/family are doing. Checks on their online-banking or credit card statements. Sometimes even fills out government or high-level forms that requires them to type in their social security number! From this simple list alone, if your information were to fall into the wrong hands, someone could easily see or do the following:
- Social Media: If someone steal your account, they could see all your friends and family, their phone numbers, emails, pictures, interests, addresses, etc. Not to mention the irreparable damage they can do by posting on your behalf.
- Banking: If someone, who’s not you, were to access your account, they could easily take your hard-earned money! Along the same line, if someone had access to your credit cards, they could change your personal info and request a new card and pin, then max out your cards. Say good bye to your emergency money!
- Social Security Number: If they have this, odds are they have a pretty decent chunk of information on you already and you’re in for a world of hurt via identity theft.
Allow me to provide you a real-life scenario on how critical it is for you to follow the below precautions covered in this article.
Let’s say your name is Steven Powell and you have the following accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Gmail, Chase Banking, & a Capital One account.
Depending on how much information you post about yourself online, odds are, an identity theft criminal could easily guess at least 1 to 3 of your security questions. They could also find your physical address based on your check-ins/pictures, and your email address because it would be listed in your profile if it’s public.
Maybe you have even posted your cell phone number somewhere in the past! Odds are also high that your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (etc.) accounts use the same user name. If this is the case, then likely safe to assume that your Chase or Capital One account username are either the same or not that far off from your social media information.
If someone were to get access to just one of these accounts, and this is the case for majority of the population, they would be able to get access to all of them because most people only have a single email address and password that they use for everything.
Now if none of the above applies to you, then you’re off to a good start! As for the rest of you, if even one of these scenarios apply to you then you’re in serious danger of getting your information stolen. Keep in mind the point of this article is not to scare you off from ever using the internet again, but to help you use the internet safely and correctly.
- Utilize OAuth Tokens if available.
I know what you’re thinking, use a different password for every single account? How would I remember even half of these! Well thankfully we now have something called OAuth Tokens (Open Authentication Tokens) which allow you to use a website without even having to create an account! While you may not be familiar with the name, you probably have already used this many, many times. An example of using an OAuth login would be by clicking on links like the following:
If this option is available, you should always use it! How these log ins work is that you grant the website permission to be accessed using your account but they do not have access to your password, so if they ever get hacked, you’re at far less risk than you would be if you registered all your information like you traditionally would. Before you give a website permission to use your account though, check to see what permissions you might be giving away and allowing access too. Some applications might try to post something on your behalf as you use the service, or something else you might not want. For example, lets take iHeartRadio. When I use the “Connect with Facebook” option, this is what it reports to me that it will use, but notice the very important bit at the bottom. “This doesn’t let the app post to Facebook.”
- Remove OAuth Tokens You Are Not Using
This is something you should always keep on top of because if you are not going to be using that website anymore, why do they still need access to your account? For example, you can click here to get to all your connected apps and sites for Google and if you’ve ever used this feature, you should see quite a few. See something you don’t recognize? You can try to Google it to find out what it is, or just remove it with no worries. If it was something that you ended up needing, then when you log in again to that service or website, it will just ask you to sign in all over again.
- Utilize a Strong Password
If the website does not have this option available, then you will want to use a strong password. Your password should be at least 8 characters in length, have a capital letter, a number and a special character. In case you’re curious, Kaspersky has a password tool that will tell you how long it would take a hacker to brute-force their way into your account. Don’t worry, they do not log or collect any of your information, it’s purely for educational purposes! You also do not want to utilize common words or sequences. For example, Password1234 (Can be hacked in 2 hours) or even Password1@3$5^ (Can be hacked in 2 months) are both terrible passwords despite how complex they both should be all because of the use of the word “Password” and because of predictable sequences. Try to make your password as unique to you as possible, don’t use something generic that you think there’s a chance a lot of people are going to use.
- Use Password Generator & Keeper Tools
Another alternative is to just get rid of that mess altogether! Tools like KeePass and LastPass are some of the more popular options you have today. KeePass is 100% free, and will keep track of all your passwords for you. KeePass is a program you can install on your Windows or Mac computer and there are even Mozilla FireFox and Google Chrome add-ons. Keep in mind that they both require KeePass to be installed on your computer to work properly. As for mobile options there are both Android and iPhone versions available. LastPass is service brought to you by LogMeIn and is free to a degree with premium models. It can be used on Mac, Windows, Android & iPhone! It is free for the device you create your account on, so for example, if you use the desktop version, it will always be free for all of your computers/laptops. Whereas if you start with the mobile app, it will be free for all of your tablets and phones. Once you want to use LastPass on both the computer AND mobile devices, that is when you will need to start paying. LastPass can also be used for more than just passwords. For example, you can create profiles to remember redundant information, such as a registration form for a website, or even your credit card information. You can also create custom fields to fill in for these profiles if you need more options.
- Utilize Free Security Addons
There are plenty of free addons and extensions for both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox that there is no reason for you to not have. All of these addons are worthy of their own article, which we will cover in the future for a more detailed explanation! Ublock Origin is the first on this list, which is available for Chrome and Firefox. This is an ad-blocker will which keeps annoying ads off your screen and is a more resource friendly version of AdBlock Plus. Disconnect, which stops over 2,000 websites from searching and tracking every single page you go to. You can find it on both Chrome and Firefox. The last big one that we will cover today is called HTTPS Everywhere. HTTPS Everywhere is an extension to protect your data by enabling HTTPS encryption automatically on sites that are known to support it, even when you type in a website or follow links that get rid of the “https:” part of the link. Like the others, it can be found on Chrome and Firefox.
- Keep Your Computer Safe From Viruses & Malware
While this was mentioned in our last post on how to speed your computer up, it’s just as relevant here. Anti-virus protection alone isn’t enough anymore these days. You generally should have an anti-virus program as well as an anti-malware program or a program that does both. Which means that if you’re using only Microsoft Defender, for example, then you’re already likely in quite a bit of trouble. In AV Comparative’s testing Microsoft Defender for Windows 10 was one of the worst performers in terms of security. There are quite a few options to choose from, but whichever you choose, just be sure to do your research! Something worth noting is that just because you’re paying for a service, does not mean that is good. (Looking at you, ESET and Norton.) As for Malware & Adware issues, there are two popular contenders known as Adaware and Malwarebytes.
- Keep Yourself Informed and Make Safe Decisions
Even with all of these tools, it’s all still dependent on you. If you click on something that is obviously a virus, or download something you have a feeling you shouldn’t, visit a website that seems pretty sketchy then your tools can only do so much to protect you! If you’re uncertain, or uncomfortable with any of these steps, give us a call or send us an email and we’ll help you out or do all of this for you! No technical support service will ever call you unless you reached out to them first. If someone asks you for your password, DO NOT GIVE IT TO THEM! This is especially true if you’ve never met them, they are trying to steal your information! Your information is only as safe as you make it, I cannot stress this point enough. If these steps are confusing or you need help with setting any of them up, we can help with either remotely or by utilizing our onsite services if you reside within Arizona. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us!