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Cyber Attacks: Are You At Risk? Part Two

Cyber Security Part 2

Welcome back for Cyber Attacks round two! Last week we talked about Cyber Attacks, who is vulnerable and what you can do about it. In case you missed it, the answers are ‘you’ and ‘be proactive’. We are sharing some great tips with you on how to be more proactive about your cyber defense. Last week I taught you all about password security and how to remember those darn things. I hope you found that information helpful!

We started with passwords because they are your first line of defense. Following behind in a close second is computer security. If your computer has been compromised, any accounts or applications you use while you’re on that compromised computer are now at risk. Therefore, we need to make sure that you’re taking steps to keep your computer healthy.

Step One

Let’s start by recapping a tip I mentioned last week – make sure you require a password to log onto your device. Please don’t miss this part. If your computer is accessible by other people, this is an obvious step to take. However, many feel they are safe because they are the only ones with access to their computer.

This is relative safety. What if someone broke into your home? Are you ok with giving a criminal all of your personal information without putting up a fight? A user account password probably won’t stop a talented hacker, but then again talented hackers aren’t usually cat burglars. A password may be enough to deter a simple robber looking for some quick cash. More than likely, your computer would end up being sold for parts or completely wiped as opposed to your password being cracked.

Step Two

You’re probably just about tired of hearing about passwords, but this is the last one – promise. Put a password on your Wi-Fi! You would probably notice if someone broke into your home, but someone breaking into your wireless network might not throw up as many red flags. Make sure your network is secure. There are many great articles about this online. I recommend reading a handful so that you really get a good idea of how your network functions and what your risks are. Securing your wireless network means more than just having a Wi-Fi password.

Step Three

Protect your computer with Antivirus Software. I can’t tell you how many times a friend or family member has asked me to help them fix their computer because they’ve caught a nasty virus. For less web savvy people like my mom, it seems like I’m cleaning up her computer every other week. On the flip side, being very smart and aware of traps can’t always save you either. As computer and web savvy as I am, I’ve still been victim to malware a handful of times. The rancorous people that create these viruses and malware are only getting more cunning. Therefore, everyone needs some type of protection.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. How do you choose a good Antivirus program when there are a million choices out there? That’s a great question, especially since malware sometimes cloaks itself as antivirus or antimalware software. Luckily for you, I’ve already done the research. While it pains me to say this, some of the best protection out there is from the providers you’re already familiar with – Norton and McAfee.

If you’re anything like me, then these programs probably annoy the snot out of you. In my personal experience, they tend to be clunky and irritating. However, they are very highly rated by both independent testing companies and users as for their effectiveness. If you’re looking for a more robust and unobtrusive alternative, consider Webroot.

Webroot Logo

It’s a PC Mag 19 time winner. Webroot boasts next-gen cyber-security. It is available for PC & Mac along with your mobile devices and it offers competitive prices.

Malwarebytes Logo

I’d also like to mention Malwarebytes. It’s an anti-malware program. This is great for scanning your computer for malware, especially if you think you might already be infected. A majority of how-to blogs on how to remove malware recommend starting with this program. Other highly rated programs include: Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, Avira Antivirus Pro 2016, and Trend Micro Internet Security 2016.

Step Four

Keep your systems up to date. First and foremost, you should be using an up to date Operating System. This isn’t usually an issue with Mac users, but it does tend to be a sore point for PC users. I know some of you are still clinging to Windows XP, but you need to come to terms with the fact that it is no longer supported and is a security nightmare. If you are serious about security, you should be on a supported version of Windows, such as Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. If you are on Windows 7 or 8, you may still qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 10, but this expires July 29, 2016.

Since we’re talking about Windows, let’s talk about Internet Explorer. You won’t catch many web developers browsing the web for pleasure on Internet Explorer as it is the bane of our existence, but a large amount of the general population still uses IE. If this applies to you, you need to be on IE11 (or Edge) – no exceptions. Using out dated browsers is a huge security risk. For even better browsing, try Chrome or Firefox. Bonus points if you set your browser to update automatically!

Browser Logos

Step Five

This final step doesn’t include tipS of things you should do – these are tips on things you shouldn’t be doing. The internet can be a scary place even if you’re just a casual Facebooker that’s never heard the terms Deep Web or Darknet. While I assure you those virtual dark back alleys and reprehensible marketplaces for cybercriminals do exist, you’re not going to accidentally stumble upon them. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other places you can find yourself in trouble. Here are some things that you need to stay away from.

Peer-to-peer File Sharing
Napster must have been a descendant of Helen of Troy. While Helen’s face might have launched a thousand ships, Napster’s face launched countless lawsuits. Inspired by the brilliance of Napster, many P2P File Sharing platforms soon came along and with them came modern day pirates.

In addition to the legal implications, using this type of software is like opening your door and leaving the porch light on for malware.

Questionable Downloads & Entertainment
This encompasses a lot of things. Many of these things may be morally or ethically questionable material. If you’re seeking out this type of stuff, you’re putting yourself at risk for viruses and malware. We don’t condone an illegal behavior. Even if what you’re doing is legal but it’s questionable or not-so-respectable, get a crappy computer that you don’t care about to handle that kind of business on. Enough said.

Those are the five steps to keeping your computer happy and healthy. As a bonus tip, stay educated and alert. Ever tried to download legitimate software and ended up on one of those pages with a billion download buttons where you have to figure out which one isn’t an ad? Don’t know what a phishing website is? Get educated! I promise the cyber attackers are learning new tricks; you should, too! Stay tuned next week for more awesome ways to protect yourself from these jerks!

Stephanie Rawson

Stephanie has 15 years of self-taught HTML and web design experience along with an associates degree in Information Technology from Colorado Tech. Her previous experience in eCommerce and customer service gives her a unique insight into what clients and their customers are looking for. Outside of work, Stephanie is active in Christian ministry and loves geeky hobbies.

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