Steps to Protect Yourself from Hackers

The internet is extremely convenient, and many people choose to do their banking, bill-paying, shopping and other financial activities online. Online activity presents its own set of security risks, however, and it’s important to safe guard your information from identity thieves. Hackers may be able to access your information stored online or even on your own home or work computer. In order to keep your identity secure, here are a few tips for protecting yourself against hackers:

  • Be sure you have the up-to-date security patches from Microsoft. Although it may be annoying or inconvenient to download the new updates, keeping your computer updated is vital to the safety of your information as well as the health of the computer itself. Try switching your automatic updates to take place whenever your computer shuts down. This way you won’t be interrupted while you’re working if an update needs to occur.
  • Use anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-malware. There are numerous free open-source programs that you can use if you don’t want to pay for Norton or McAfee. Just be sure to uninstall any other anti-virus software before installing a new program. Otherwise, the two could cancel each other out and actually make you more vulnerable to viruses.
  • Beware of anything you click. If you receive a link from an unknown source in an email or if you’re prompted to download something when you arrive on a website, be very cautious. You may want to search for the link in a search engine before clicking it.
  • Keep an eye out for pfishing scams. Pfishing is an attempt to gain information by masquerading as an official source. For example, you may receive an email from someone claiming to be your bank and needing you to click on a link to access your account. When you click the link, you’re taken to a scam site that will steal your password. Before responding to any emails or clicking any links, check the email address to be sure it seems legitimate. Also be sure to check the URL of any page you’re on before inputting your information. If in doubt, you can call the number for the company and confirm the email.
  • Use secure passwords. The best passwords include a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols. There should not be any identifiable information such as a dictionary word, your birthday, the name of a pet, or anything else that’s easy to guess. Use different passwords for different accounts. For maximum security, change your passwords often.
  • Use an alternate browser. Many viruses and other security attacks are developed specifically for Internet Explorer. You can avoid many attacks by using alternate software like Opera, Firefox, or Google Chrome. Mac users and Linux users also have a lower risk of getting viruses.
  • Don’t use file sharing programs. Many free download sites that utilize peer-to-peer file sharing are riddled with viruses and malware in addition to often violating copyright laws or partaking in other illegal activity. For maximum security, only download from an authorized source such as a software company’s website.
  • Be mindful of certain types of sites. Some kinds of websites are notorious for causing security breaches. Adult entertainment websites, free offer sites, and certain gaming sites are often plagued with viruses or other problems. Avoid these sites whenever possible or be sure that you have a very good antivirus installed first.
  • Don’t give access of your computer to anyone. A popular scam right now involves an individual calling and claiming to be with Microsoft or another company. He will say that he’s calling to diagnose slow computer speed and in order to improve your computer’s performance he will need remote access to your computer. There are other versions of this scam, but the result is always the same. Never provide information to allow remote access to your computer. Any IT department that genuinely needs to access your computer remotely will be able to do so without asking for your information.

As computer technology becomes more complex, hackers and their methods will become more aggressive. It’s a good idea to remain constantly vigilant about your computer’s security. By keeping track of current hacking trends, you can protect yourself and your identity.