steps to a safer IT and internetlife

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Get a trusted brand

Use the anti-virus software of a reputable and trusted brand leader – whether it’s free or paid-for. Some of the main brand leaders include Avast, AVG, Eset, McAfee, Norton, Microsoft and Sophos.

VIRUS

Free anti-virus may be enough

Free anti-virus software may be all you need for your home computer or devices.

For example, Microsoft Windows 10 Security (better known as Microsoft Defender), which is free with Windows 10, has received positive reviews from a number of IT and consumer experts. It scans for malware (harmful software which will cause damage to – and try to extract personal and financial information from – your computer), viruses and security threats, with updates downloaded automatically to help keep your device safe. It also allows you to keep an eye on your children’s online activity, block inappropriate websites and games, and set screen time limits for them.

Although free anti-virus usually protects against viruses and malware, the protection will generally be more basic than paid-for versions. However, you can get additional protection – not included in a free anti-virus package – from other free anti-virus apps. For those who are not IT-proficient, getting the help of a local friendly IT expert when choosing and installing free anti-virus would be wise.

Having web content filters on your PC and other home devices should help prevent your children from accessing harmful content and prevent malware from being downloaded onto computers. There are plenty of free content filters – such as Open DNS and Sophos Home. Paid-for anti-virus will usually have content filtering too.

Know what you’re paying for

Expect to pay  for good anti-virus software for a home computer , depending on how advanced the product is. Make sure you get what you need and want when paying for anti-virus. The main risks you need anti-virus to protect you against are phishing scams (where criminals impersonate legitimate organisations to try to lure you into providing personal or financial information), malware and ransomware (malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid).

As well as protecting you against phishing scams, malware and ransomware, a good paid-for anti-virus package will often have extra features not included in the free versions – such as parental controls (so you can keep an eye on your children’s activities online and stop them accessing certain websites), protection from identify theft, back-up tools (so you can restore your computer – and the information on it – in the event of a computer crash or cyberattack), a firewall, and better customer service and technical support.

“Getting an anti-virus product which includes spam filtering or email filtering – or which scans your email specifically for malware would be good,”

Download the right anti-virus

Be careful how you download anti-virus software. “Avoid free products that are strongly promoted to you,” . “Be careful that you’re not fooled into a malware event [where you inadvertently download malicious software] in your attempts to find something to protect your computer. Make sure you’re on the website that’s clearly that of a brand leader – and that it is its website. Make sure you’re buying off the right entity.”

Secure your smart devices too

Many of us have smart devices in our home – such as smart speakers (like Google Nest or Amazon Echo), smart thermostats (to control the temperature and heating in your home), smart security systems (such as locks on your gate or door which can be opened remotely via your smartphone), and smart baby monitors (where you watch live video streams of your baby in their cot remotely from your smartphone). All such smart devices are connected to the internet and therefore could be attacked by a hacker.

So it’s important to secure your wireless connection (which links your computer to the device which provides the internet connection, such as a router or modem).

“Make sure your wireless is configured correctly with the proper encryption and the proper complex passwords,”. “In relation to your broadband, most homes will have a standard router that they’ve been given by their broadband provider – and there would be some security in that. However, if you want a bit more security, consider an entry-level firewall in addition to your router.”

It’s important that you don’t buy cheap smart devices as these may be more susceptible to hackers.

Don’t overlook your smartphone

“Find out if the make and model of smartphone comes with security and if it’s good enough security,”.

“If you’re on an Android phone or tablet, make sure there’s security software on it – most phones have security built in but check it out first. When doing online banking on your mobile phone, don’t use an internet connection you don’t know. If you are in a cafe and using the cafe’s network to do online banking on your phone – or to pay for something, the cafe’s network may not be secure. However, doing online banking on your phone over your own 3G or 4G network is usually one of the safest ways to do so.”

Use up-to-date IT platforms

Make sure your computer operating system is up-to-date. “It’s not just about anti-virus software – don’t use old computer platforms that aren’t been updated anymore,”. “If an operating system is not supported [by its manufacturer] anymore, it’s not updated and there are ways for scammers to get into your computer. If you have an Apple Mac, make sure all the applications are updated.”

Some of the Windows operating systems that are no longer supported by Microsoft include Windows 7 and Windows XP. An unsupported version of Windows will no longer receive software updates from Microsoft. These updates include security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware and other malicious software – so it is important to have an operating system that is still supported.

Choose the right passwords

Foolproof passwords – for your computer and other IT devices around your home – are a must.

“When choosing a password, you could use three completely different words added together and change some of the letters for numbers,”. “If you want to write your passwords down [so you remember them], write them down in a cryptic format – and keep the written record of your passwords away from your computer. There are password managers and password vaults where you can securely store your passwords. Don’t change passwords too regularly unless you feel they’re being compromised.”

Be sure too not to have the same password for a number of devices or accounts.

careful how you share

Even the best anti-virus software won’t protect you from cybercriminals if you’re not careful yourself about how you use computers and other IT devices in your home.

“If sharing a device, set up separate logins for everyone in the family,”. “Each family member shold have a separate login – don’t tell your children what your own password is.”

Those working from home should be particularly careful not to share work devices with other family members – or to save sensitive work data on a PC. Doing so could lead to the mishandling, loss or corruption of confidential information. “Never plug any unknown storage device into your home or work PC,”

back-ups

Have a back-up of any important documents or photos. “You need some sort of a backup system for your data – such as a USB drive [known as a pen drive] or a storage device or cloud [computer system] that you can transfer the information onto,”. Otherwise, you could lose everything on your computer if the worst happens.

 

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