By George Otte
Sadly, the digital world is filled with security threats.
These threats take many forms:
- Viruses: Just like a biological virus, this type of malware replicates itself inside infected host systems, then moves on to uninfected systems and repeats the process.
- Trojans: Trojans mimic seemingly legitimate programs, tricking the victim into downloading or installing the malicious software.
- Ransomware: Ransomware programs lock users out of their own systems unless and until they pay a cryptocurrency ransom.
- Phishing and Spearphishing: These email- and social media-based attacks mimic seemingly legitimate messages. Usually, the message convinces the user to click a link and enter sensitive information, such as a password or bank account number.
- Man-in-the-Middle Attacks: These attacks use a silent intermediary to intercept information sent by the user, including sensitive details such as passwords and financial information.
And these are just the tip of the iceberg. New, novel threats arise just as quickly as cyber security professionals can address them.
In this high-stakes environment, totally failsafe protection is impossible to achieve. A truly motivated, highly capable attacker backed by the full resources of an adversarial nation-state will compromise your computer system if it wishes to do so.
“Fortunately, nation-state attacks rarely target individuals. Corporate users with access to substantial financial reserves or valuable intellectual property are more commonly targeted by such actors.” — George Otte
Follow these six tips to protect your home computer system against unwanted attack or intrusion by those who wish to do you harm.
1. Complete Recommended or Required Updates in Timely Fashion
Do not put off recommended system and software updates longer than necessary. It’s best to address these action items as soon as you become aware of them, as they’re likely to get lost in your to-do pile with undue delay.
2. Keep Your Firewall On
Under normal circumstances, your operating system’s firewall should always be running. Don’t turn it off without first consulting a computer maintenance professional or your operating system’s developer.
3. Don’t Click Suspicious Links in Email, Even If You Know the Sender
Fight phishing and spearphishing attacks by avoiding suspicious links in emails and direct social media messages. Even if you know the sender, it’s always wise to send a separate email to inquire about the link; their account may be compromised.
4. Regularly Back Up Your Data
Use a cloud-based storage system that regularly, automatically backs up your data to a secure location outside your system. Alternatively, use an external hard drive as a backup. This will come in handy if and when your system is compromised by ransomware or otherwise crippled by attackers.
5. Install a Leading Anti-Virus Suite
Use a reputable, up-to-date anti-malware program that automatically scans your system for threats. Supplement these automatic scans with thorough manual scans as well.
6. Use a Virtual Private Network, Especially When Browsing on Public WiFi Networks
Avoid attacks on public WiFi by using a virtual private network (VPN) whenever you’re away from your home network. VPNs encrypt your device’s outbound traffic, obscuring sensitive data from snoopers.
What are you doing to keep your computer safe from attack this year? Have you tried any of the tips on this checklist?
George Otte is a Miami-based entrepreneur and executive with more than 15 years of multifaceted business operations experience.