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If a large company with weak security suffers a data breach that exposes your personal information, password information, or profile pictures, there’s nothing you can do. However, that doesn’t mean you are powerless to defend yourself. Focus on protecting your energy security and privacy at home. You don’t want to lose the novel you’re writing to ransomware or let a banking trojan take all your money, do you? Fortunately, you can install local protection for these local problems.
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It doesn’t take much effort to make devices, online identities and activities more secure. In fact, a lot of our advice on what you can do to stay safer online comes down to common sense. These tips for staying safe online will help you stay safer.
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We call this type of software antivirus, but fighting real computer viruses is only a small part of what they do. Ransomware encrypts your files and demands payment to restore them. Trojan programs appear to be legitimate programs, but behind the scenes they steal your private information. Bots turn your computer into a soldier in an army of zombies, ready to engage in denial of service attacks, spam or whatever the gang of bots command. An effective antivirus protects against these and many other types of malware.
In theory, you can configure and forget about your antivirus, leaving it buzzing in the background, downloading updates, and so on. In practice, you should review it from time to time. Most antivirus utilities will display a green banner or icon when things are going crazy. If you open the utility and see yellow or red, follow the instructions to get things back on track.
You might be thinking, wait, isn’t this an antivirus built into Windows? In addition to being integrated into the operating system, Microsoft Defender automatically takes over protection if it doesn’t detect another antivirus and also automatically steps away if you install third-party protection. The fact is, this built-in antivirus doesn’t compare to the best third-party solutions. Even the best free ones are much better than Microsoft Defender. Don’t trust yourself; Can you do any better.
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Whether you opted for a simple antivirus or a full security suite, you need to update it every year. Your best bet is to sign up for an auto-renewal program. For some security products, this allows for a malware-free guarantee. You can always cancel later if you want to switch to another product.
One more thing. If your antivirus or security suite doesn’t have ransomware protection, consider adding a separate layer of protection. Many ransomware-specific utilities are completely free, so there’s no reason not to try a few and choose the one that works best for you.
There are many great apps and settings that help protect your devices and your identity, but they are only valuable if you know how to use them correctly. To get maximum protection from these tools, you need to understand their functions and settings. For example, your smartphone almost certainly includes a way to find it if you lose it, and you might even have it flipped. But have you actively tested it to know how to use it when needed?
Most antivirus tools are capable of blocking potentially unwanted applications (PUAs), problematic applications that aren’t exactly malware but don’t do anything useful. However, not all enable PUA detection by default. Check detection settings and make sure your device is configured to block such interference. Also, your security suite may have components that are not active until you have them. When installing a new security product, go through all the pages in the main window and at least look at the settings. If they offer an initial familiarization tour, don’t skip it, instead go through the tour methodically, paying attention to all the features.
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Antivirus tools often include some form of browser protection, usually in the form of browser extensions. If you accidentally try to visit a dangerous page or a phishing scam, they will redirect your browser to a safe warning page. Many of them mark up search results so you don’t even click on the dangerous link. And all this won’t help you at all if you haven’t installed the browser extension and it doesn’t work. Check all browsers you use to ensure they are secure.
To make sure your antivirus is configured and working correctly, you can refer to the Security Features Check page (opens in a new window) on the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization (AMTSO) website. If your antivirus isn’t working, it’s time to contact tech support and find out why.
One of the easiest ways for hackers to steal information is to get multiple username and password combinations from one source and try the same combination elsewhere. For example, let’s say hackers have your username and password to hack your email service provider. They may try to access banking websites or online stores using the same username and password combination. The best way to avoid the domino effect of a data breach is to use a strong, unique password for each of your online accounts.
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Creating a unique and strong password for each account is not a human task. That’s why you use the random password generator built into your password manager. Many very good password managers are free and take little time to get started. However, paid password managers generally offer more features.
When using a password manager, you must remember the master password, which closes the password manager itself. When opened, the password manager automatically connects you to your online accounts. This not only helps keep you safer, but also increases your efficiency and productivity. No more wasting time typing your login details or dealing with the time-consuming frustration of resetting a forgotten password.
Another thing to consider. If tomorrow you are cremated by a self-driving car, how will your heirs access your accounts? More advanced password managers allow you to identify a password heir, someone who accesses your account after shuffling your death coil.
Whenever you connect to the Internet on a Wi-Fi network that you don’t have, you should use a Virtual Private Network or VPN. Let’s say you go to a coffee shop and connect to a free Wi-Fi network. You don’t know anything about the security of this connection. It is possible that someone else on this network is looking at or stealing files and data sent from your laptop or mobile device without your knowledge. The hotspot owner could be a thief sniffing out the secrets of all Wi-Fi connections. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic by sending it through a VPN company’s server. This means that no one, not even the owner of the free Wi-Fi network, can snoop on your data.
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Using a VPN also hides your IP address. Advertisers and trackers who want to identify or geolocate this IP address will see the VPN company address. Spoofing your location using a VPN server in another country can also help you access content that is not available in your region. More seriously, journalists and activists in repressive countries have long used VPN technology to communicate securely.
The bottom line is that if you connect via Wi-Fi (whether on a laptop, phone, or tablet), you really need a VPN. If you’ve never used one before, or if this technology seems beyond your internet knowledge, don’t worry, we’ve covered how to set up and use a VPN.
Multi-factor authentication can be a pain, but it will definitely make your accounts more secure. Multi-factor authentication means you have to go through another layer of authentication to access your accounts, rather than just a username and password. If the account information or personal information is confidential or valuable and the account offers multi-factor authentication, you must enable it. Gmail, Evernote and Dropbox are some examples of online services that offer many features
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