Between our computers, cell phones and tablets, most Americans have huge amounts of our personal information stored via digital means. Although technological security has grown as rapidly as the technology it supports, the threat of hackers and viruses is constant. With everything from our family photos to our banking information being stored somewhere digitally, it is important to educate ourselves on how we can lockdown this information. In our new digital life series, we’ll share a variety of tips and practices to help make sure your digital life is just as secure as your physical life.
Volume One: Computer Operating Systems
Before smart phones and tablets, there were personal computers. Even though mobile devices surpassed computers for internet usage in 2014, personal computers are still a large source of internet browsing, information storage and software downloading. Below are a few steps you can take for each of those practices to keep your computer as secure as possible. Note: this article applies to both PC and Mac operating systems.
Be wary when downloading or installing software.
This seems like common knowledge, but software files downloaded via third party providers are the most common source of computer viruses. These viruses can cripple your computer’s functions and potentially steal information. When downloading software, especially from the internet, make sure it is coming straight from the vendor and has some sort of digital signature or mark associated with the specific company (think Adobe or QuickTime). When possible, download programs straight from stores available on Windows or OS X (PC and Macs respective operating systems).
Keep track of the Plugins you download and use.
Plugins are pieces of software that interact with your web browser to enable certain features or functions. While many plugins are important (such as a Flash plugin that allows you to view online videos), many third party websites will encourage users to download plugins that provide little value and can open the digital doors on your browser to viruses. Check the settings on your web browser to see what plugins you have enabled and delete any that aren’t vital to the day-to-day use of your browser.
Download operating system updates when available.
We all know how annoying it can be when your computer tells you it’s time for an update every week. However, these updates are typically filled with valuable changes to the operating system that were put in place by programmers to fight against advanced threats. While these updates may be frequent in nature, each one is important for the protection of your system.
Carefully vet your Anti - virus/malware/Trojan software
There are dozens, if not hundreds of programs that can be installed on a computer to prevent the threat of viruses. Many of these programs also have the ability to scan for and eliminate viruses, should they find their way onto your computer. However, for every legitimate antivirus software on the market, there are dozens of fake programs, providing “free” downloads to infiltrate systems and spread their own viruses. If you choose to install an antivirus software, do you research first and be willing to spend a little for the appropriate protection. Some respected and trusted programs include Avast Antivirus, Panda Antivirus and AVG Antivirus.