These days you can’t be too careful – and I know that is such a cliche phrase.  However it is true.  The more we do on our computers – shopping, banking, communicating, and watching TV – the more risk we are at in our day to day life in terms of how much information is on there for thieves to take.  Computer hacking is becoming more and more of a threat.  It feels like every few months my credit card gets “stolen” somehow, whether over the internet or through physical means such as a card “skimmer”.

The best way to protect yourself and your data is to ensure that you follow some “best practices” that I will lay out in this blog post.

First of all you’ll want to ensure that you have an antivirus software tool installed on your computer, and that you also have an antimalware tool as well.  These programs are similar, but they often cover you from different threats.  Viruses and worms are slightly different from malware.  Sometimes Norton does not pick up malware such as toolbars, ransomware, and other such programs.  I use Spyhunter 4 for my computer, but there are also options such as Malwarebytes as well as Eset.  I would suggest doing a bit of reading to select the one that you think best fits your lifestyle.

Another thing that you will want to do is to ensure that ALL of your software is up to date.  That includes your operating system as well as your internet browser.  Usually the updates include security patches, and if you’re using an old version you could be vulnerable to threats that exploit security holes in those versions.  If you have the option, allow your software to automatically update itself so you don’t forget.  I used to delay updating my software and it definitely left me open to attacks.

Once you do all that you’ll want to ensure that you avoid certain internet “bad neighborhoods”.  You might be disappointed but not surprised to find out that your favorite adult, gambling, and download sites are breeding grounds for malware as well as viruses and spyware.  You will want to avoid these sites.  If you really want to use them you might want to consider buying a separate netbook or computer to visit them, and do not do any banking or store any important information on that device.

Lastly, you’ll definitely want to ensure that you’re backing up your computer on a consistent basis.  If you have a recent backup you’ll be able to wipe your computer and restore if you get a virus or malware, or if you’re hit with ransomware.  This is the most important thing that you’re probably not doing.  I know most people just don’t keep up with backing up their computer.  However with a program like Backblaze you can set it up once and forget about it, and it will continue to back up all of your info for you.  That program saved my butt one time when my hard drive broke, and it was worth every penny.