The best computer safety tips aren’t just the ones that can save you money as free doesn’t always mean no cost—they also save you money over the long term by keeping you and your computer out of trouble. So whether you want to save money or you just want to avoid spending it, try these 10 tips:
1—Anti-Virus And Firewall – Use It
Almost all new computers today come with free anti-virus and firewall software. Often it’s only free for 60 or 90 days and then you have to start paying for it, but you should use that free trial period to get your money’s worth.
After the trial ends, you can switch to free firewall and anti-virus software. For a free firewall, use the firewall built into Windows. It’ll protect you from everything a more expensive firewall will protect you from. Its only downside is that it isn’t as configurable as a paid firewall.
For free anti-virus, I suggest AVG. It may not be as good as the top-tier paid anti-virus products, but it’s close. If you avoid risky behaviors such as downloading strange programs, AVG should do everything you need for free.
2—Make Backups – Yeah Obvious Stuff
Your computer will die one day. It could be today or it could be years from now, but whenever it happens, you shouldn’t be surprised. Many times computers die suddenly and there’s no chance of recovering any data.
That means you must make good backups every time you do something important on your computer. When I started using computers, backups were hard and time consuming. Today backups are easy and practically instant.
The best backup option is one that’s stored separately from your computer. That way whatever destroys your computer, such as a house fire, has less chance of destroying your backup. A great way to keep your backup away from your computer is by making your backup over the Internet.
Two online services, Dropbox and Moxy, both offer free online backups. They do severely limit the size of the files you can backup on the free plan, but if you use both services, you get twice the free backup space. You can also increase the amount of backup space you get by paying a modest monthly charge.
Both Dropbox and Moxy automatically backup your files whenever they change—for example, they backup a document every time you hit “Save”. That means your backups always include your most recent data, which is the best type of backup to have.
3—Install Updates ASAP
Do you ever dither when Windows asks you to reboot your computer after an update? Don’t. When Microsoft releases a patch to Windows, they’re also telling the world that there’s something wrong with Windows, and the key to that fault is in that patch—as soon as hackers read the patch, they can start creating viruses which exploit that fault in Windows to break into your computer.
Once you install the patch, you’re safe. But every minute you wait to install the patch leaves you vulnerable in a world that knows exactly how to use your vulnerability.
This same advice to update immediately also applies to other software which updates itself. Whenever possible, apply updates immediately so hackers can’t use known problems to break into your computer. This is very important so you can protect your computer from viruses and hackers alike.
4—Use A Surge Protector
[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”B000JE9LD4″ locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41JFMJlq6dL.jpg” width=”270″]An electrical surge, most often the result of a nearby lightning strike, destroys more computers every year than any other natural event. I find this statistic sad because protecting your computer from electrical surges is so easy: buy a $5 or $10 surge protector from your nearby supermarket or office supply store.
Nothing on this list of computer safety tips could be easier than that. Just buy the surge protector and plug your computer into it and you’ll be safe from every electrical surge except a direct lightning strike on your computer, which is about as likely as you being struck by lightning while inside your house. (Very rare but not impossible.)
5—Go On A Secret Holiday
Don’t tell people online that you’re going on vacation—that is, unless you want to be robbed. If you post about going on vacation to your public Twitter account, any thief can search for “vacation” on Twitter’s main page, find your name, search Google for your address, and break into your house when you’re away.
I advise you not to post about upcoming or current vacations even on somewhat secure sites such as Facebook or Google+. Facebook and Google accounts get hacked everyday and even though hackers rarely engage in physical crime, you have no idea what they’ll do with your information.
Be careful even if you know somebody will be staying home from your vacation—such as your elderly parent or a house sitter. Unless you mention that in every tweet or post, a thief mike get the wrong idea, break into your house, and get into a violent confrontation with your loved one.
It’s safer for you to simply tell everyone about your vacation when it’s over.
6—Don’t Open Exe Files
If someone sends you a program attachment in an email file (even if they claim it’s something else), don’t open it. This is the number one trick hackers use to install viruses on your computer—if you open the file, you install the virus, possibly bypassing your anti-virus software.
If someone really wants you to install a program on your computer, ask them to send you a link to a review of the software on a reputable site—and then download the software from that site.
This is why we always recommend you install decent protection for your computer, especially if you use if often and care about the data it holds. Pc Pitstop’s PcMatic is proving to be a one of the top software programs and has earned a number of awards for actually finding viruses where other programs would not detect. Get a free scan and give it a try.
7—Don’t Trust The From Address
Email was purposely designed to mimic postal mail in many ways, and one of those ways is the from address. On a regular piece of postal mail, you can write whatever you want in the return address part. I’ve written all sorts of names and addresses in this part: my name, my business name, my parents name (when sending mail for them), etc…
You can do the same thing with the from address in email. Just use your offline email program to change the name and email address to whatever you want.
Unfortunately, hackers can do the same thing. They can send you an email from your mother’s address asking you to send $500 by Western Union Moneygram immediately. When you send the money, you discover it really went to the hackers, not your mother.
The key is never to trust the from address by itself, and if anyone asks you to do anything private, expensive, or out-of-character by email, pick up the phone and give them a call. We all need to be educated about spam email.
8—Beware Of Unprotected WiFi
Anywhere you go where you use unprotected wireless connections is a place where hackers can spy on what you’re doing on the Internet.
You may think that most of the things you do on the Internet are relatively unimportant, but consider how a hacker can abuse them. For example, if you login to your Facebook account over unsecured wifi at a coffee shop, a hacker at the same shop can hijack your Facebook session and pull the same Western Union Moneygram trick described above against all of your friends. It doesn’t take much skill and technology to pull off this sort of attack, so it’s a major threat.
Whenever possible, use a wireless connection secured by a strong password or by the WPS push-button authentication technique.
10—Use SSL For Financial Information
If you need to send credit card or bank information over the Internet, you need to make sure the security is strong enough to protect your information.
The security technology which has been protecting Internet traffic for over 15 years now is the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) for HTTP, which is usually written HTTPS for HTTP Secure or HTTP SSL.
It used to be that Web browsers indicated a secure connection to a HTTPS sever by putting a lock icon in the address bar of your Web browser, but then some hackers figured out how to beat that technique, so now every Web browser indicates secure websites a little bit differently.
What they all do in common is that they add color to the address bar when you’re visiting a secure site. Looking for this color, usually green or gold, before you enter any financial information is another one of these computer safety tips which is better than free because it can save you money.