Whether you’re preparing for back to school, getting a new work laptop, or fancy a new gaming PC, learn the steps to protect your new PC from cyber threats.
With Windows 11 making headlines for all the right reasons, it could be a good time to invest in a new family or home office PC. But any new household computing device should come with an appropriate security warning. Hackers are after your data as soon as it is connected to the internet. And they have numerous ways to get it.
Because of this, you must already think about cyber security before you plug in and turn on your device. Take a break now to refresh your memory and make cyber hygiene your top priority.
What are the main threats to my PC?
Once you are connected to the internet, malicious actors will try to steal your data, encrypt your device and hold it for ransom, steal financial details, secretly mine for cryptocurrency, and more. They do this using proven methods, which often rely on cracking, stealing or guessing passwords, or exploiting software vulnerabilities. Top threats include:
phish: One of the oldest scams in the book. Cyber criminals pose as legitimate and trustworthy sources (banks, technology providers, retailers, etc.) and attempt to trick users into clicking links and/or opening attachments in emails. This redirects users to a fake website where they are asked to enter personal information (such as login credentials and/or address/financial information) or could trigger a covert malware download.
Drive-by downloads and malicious ads: Sometimes just visiting an infected website or a website with malicious ads can trigger a malware download. We might think that well-known websites are less likely to be compromised this way because they have better resources and can offer better protection. But there have been many counterexamples over the years showing that this is not always the case. Because of this, it’s important to invest in security software from a reputable provider and to make sure your browser’s security settings are correct.
Digital skimming: Hackers can also compromise the payment pages of e-commerce sites with malware designed to stealthily capture your card details as you type. This is difficult to prevent as the problem lies with the provider. However, shopping from more well-known websites can reduce the risk.
Malicious apps and files: Cyber criminals also hide malware in legitimate-looking applications and downloads. Many of them are posted on online forums, p2p sites and other third party platforms. For this reason, it makes sense to download only from trusted sources and use an effective security software tool to scan for malicious software.
Ten tips to keep your computer safe
Many of the following steps may be taken care of automatically by your PC manufacturer/Microsoft, but it’s worth digging a little deeper to ensure all settings are as secure as you need them to be. Here are our top 10 computer security tips:
- Apply automatic updates for the operating system and any software running on the PC
- Remove bloatware that often comes with PCs. Check if you don’t recognize any software beforehand to ensure removal won’t impact performance. The less software there is on the machine, the fewer opportunities attackers have to exploit bugs in it
- Install multi-layered security software from a reputable third party and keep it up to date
- Configure backupsand ideally back up a copy of the data to a remote storage device that is kept offline
- Secure the browser by adjusting the privacy and security settings and making sure it is the latest version
- Turn on and configure your firewall on the operating system and home router, and make sure it is protected with a strong password
- Download a multi-factor authentication app to protect your accounts from being hijacked by phishing and other attacks
- Avoid using USBs that you do not own if they are loaded with malware
- Use a password manager to ensure all your credentials are unique, strong and difficult to crack
- Only download apps/files from trusted sources and avoid pirated material that can often be trapped with malware
It goes without saying that even if you follow these best practices, you could still be at risk when browsing the web. Always use caution, do not reply to unsolicited emails/online messages and ensure device encryption is turned on.