10 important steps to secure your computer from hacking

Hacking attempts are becoming more and more common.

A hacker is being depicted in this illustrative photo  (photo credit: Courtesy)
A hacker is being depicted in this illustrative photo
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Hackers have much to accomplish by breaking into your personal devices, such as gaining access to personal information and even financial accounts, such as your bank account sign-in details and the like.

The beginning of September is a time when many people decide to refresh their office with a new computer ahead of the new school year. Hackers will be looking for a way to break in at these early stages and gain access to whatever they can. 

This is exactly why cyber security is important, now more than ever. ESET, a malware protection and internet security software company, released a list of their top 10 tips to secure your computer from any such attempts.

What are the main threats to your computer?

As soon as you connect your computer to the internet, malicious parties will try to steal your data. They can encrypt your computer and hold the information for ransom, steal financial details, use your computer to mine cryptocurrencies and more.

They do this using tried and tested methods, most of which rely on hacking, stealing or guessing passwords or exploiting the weaknesses in your computer software.

Computer hacking (illustrative) (credit: REUTERS)Computer hacking (illustrative) (credit: REUTERS)

Some of the biggest threats include:

Phishing

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book.

Cybercriminals impersonate legitimate and reliable entities such as banks, technological service providers, retailers and such to try and convince users to click on links or open email attachments.

Clicking on the link or downloading the file, however, will lead the user to a fake website that will ask them to enter personal details such as login details, an address or even bank information. They can also perform a hidden download of harmful software.

Malicious downloads and advertisements

Sometimes, just entering an infectious website or one that displays a malicious advertisement can cause a harmful download. You might think that known websites have a lower chance of presenting such a danger because they have better resources and can invest more in security.

There are many examples in recent years that contradict this assumption, however. That makes it crucial to invest in security software from a trusted source and to make sure your browser settings are configured correctly.

Digital data theft

Hackers can infect the payment pages of e-commerce websites using vulnerabilities designed to surreptitiously collect credit card information as soon as it is entered into the website. It's very difficult to defend against this kind of attack because the source of the problem is the provider itself. Buying from more reputable sites is a good way to significantly reduce this risk.

Malicious apps and files

Cybercriminals can hide malware inside apps and downloadable files that appear to be legitimate and safe. These can be advertised on forums, download websites or third-party platforms.

This is why it is so important to download files and apps only from trusted sources and to use a reliable security tool to detect such malware.

Top 10 tips to keep your computer safe

To enjoy your computer in the long-term and not have it stolen from within, there are several important things you should do. Below are ESET's 10 tips for securing your computer. Many of the steps below are already done automatically by your computer manufacturer or by the operating system, but you should nevertheless look into them to make sure that all the settings are indeed safe according to your needs.

1. System updates

Turn on automatic updates for your operating system and the software installed on your computer. This is in order to update the security fixes that come with system updates, as well as improve the stability of your software. It can also remove some more outdated features that could eventually pose a security threat.

2. Remove junk software

Search out junk software on your computer and remove it. A lot of this usually comes with the computer when you receive it from the store. Before removing such programs, make sure that doing so will not harm your computer's performance. The less software there is on the computer, the fewer opportunities attackers have to exploit their vulnerabilities.

3. Get yourself secured

Install a multi-layered security software from a trusted third-party provider and keep the program updated regularly. This will make sure that your security system is ready for any new advancements hackers may make in their methods of finding computer vulnerabilities and exploiting them.

4. Back up

Set up backups for all of your files. It is especially important to make an additional copy that is saved on an external drive that is not connected to your network so that it cannot be accessed virtually.

5. Browse safely

Secure your preferred browser by adjusting the privacy and security settings. Make sure to keep it updated with the latest version.

6. Firewall

Enable and configure a firewall in the operating system and in your home router. Protect it with a strong password that only you know.

7. Verification security

Download a multi-step authentication app to protect your accounts from being hacked via phishing and other such attacks. Authentication apps generate security codes for signing into certain websites that require a high level of security, creating another barrier between the hostile party who is trying to access your personal details and their end goal.

8. Unplug

Avoid using USB devices that are not yours. They may be infected with malware.

9. Keep it special

Use a password manager to make sure your passwords are unique, strong and hard to crack.

10. Stay vigilant

Make sure to only download files and applications from reliable sources. Avoid pirated downloads whenever possible as they are oftentimes infected with malware.

In conclusion

Even following the steps above does not block out all risk entirely while surfing the internet, of course. Be careful at all times. Don't respond to emails or messages from unknown sources and turn on computer encryption regularly.

Taking these steps should get you started on the way to a safe and secure browsing experience.