If you’re not concerned about your computer getting a virus, you should be. If a virus or malware infects your computer or device, your personal information, financial stability, and lifestyle could be compromised. Hackers could use ransomware to hold your family photos, work documents, and other personal data hostage; phishing attacks could leave you vulnerable to fraud and identity theft.
What’s even more terrifying is that viruses aren’t just a threat for PCs anymore; increasingly, they infect tablets and smartphones. And, these days, antivirus software alone isn’t enough to protect you. You need a multi-faceted security plan. Read on to learn more.
1) Secure Your Home Network
Did you know your home wireless network may be vulnerable to hackers? You could be at risk if:
- Your wireless router is more than a few years old;
- You never changed the administrative login credentials for your wireless router;
- You never changed your home network’s name, or service set identifier (SSID);
- You never changed the default password to log in to your home wireless network; or
- Your SSID contains personal identifying information, such as your name, your pet’s name, or other info hackers could use to steal your identity.
Your wireless router is the most important device you own, because it’s what connects all the other devices you own — your phone, your tablet, your laptop or desktop PC, your Amazon Alexa, your Roomba, etc. — to one another and to the internet via your home wireless network. The last thing you want is for your router to be easy to hack. Simple things, like not changing your router’s admin login credentials, could leave you vulnerable, because these usernames are a matter of public record and are therefore easy for hackers to guess. Secure your home network by:
- Buying your own router (it’s more secure than those rented out by ISPs);
- Changing your router’s admin login credentials and your home network’s SSID and access password;
- Using a neutral name for your home network’s SSID;
- Creating a guest network if possible; and
- Using the WPA2 security protocol.
2) Use Comprehensive, Multi-Device Antivirus Protection
If you have multiple smartphones, tablets, laptops, or PCs in your home, you need antivirus protection that covers multiple devices. A comprehensive solution should include security for PCs or Macs as well as mobile devices in your home. It should protect against ransomware and other forms of malware, phishing attacks and email scams, and privacy threats. Many comprehensive antivirus protection programs also include security features and parental controls to keep children safe while they use the internet, password management, and other features.
3) Know How to Spot Social Engineering Attacks
Unfortunately, the biggest vulnerability in any network is its users. Today’s cybercriminals are getting more sophisticated, as they’ve realized that they no longer have to crack passwords — not, that is, if they can manipulate users into giving them up. Learn to identify social engineering attacks, so that you’re not tricked into falling for a phishing scam or giving a hacker your login credentials or personal information over the phone.
4) Download New Apps With Care
You should never download any apps from untrustworthy sources. That means, if it’s not in the Apple App Store, Amazon App Store, or Google Play Store, you shouldn’t be installing it on your device. App stores go to great lengths to make sure the apps they offer won’t steal yours or others’ personal information or passwords, or download malware onto your device.
That said, if you do need to download an app outside a recognized app store, make absolutely sure you can trust it. For an Android smart phone or tablet, it’s not a bad idea to go into the settings and disable the feature that allows you to download apps from unknown sources (if you do enable this feature in order to download a specific app, make sure to turn it back off again afterward). And, of course, refrain from downloading pirated apps.
5) Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
If, in spite of all your precautions, a hacker does gain access to one or more of your accounts, multi-factor authentication could be the thing that saves your hide. Multi-factor authentication requires more than just a username and password to log in to an account; it requires users to also submit some additional verification, most commonly a code texted to a cellphone or sent to an email address. When you enable multi-factor authentication, hackers can steal your username and password all they want, but it won’t be enough to get them into your account.
Staying safe online is getting more and more complicated as hackers develop new techniques to steal valuable information. But there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself. Take steps to protect your network and devices, and don’t let cybercriminals keep you up at night.