It is cyber security month. Here are the habits that every computer user needs to maintain for good cyber hygiene.
We know it’s important to have good habits in many parts of our lives, from our work to our daily hygiene. However, quite a few of us forget that we need to have good computer habits, too. Developing wise practices in connection with our computers and smartphones can make our lives much easier and help us to stay much safer on the internet.
Back Up Your Files
One thing that many people fail to do is back up their files. All it takes is one catastrophic computer crash and days or even months of work can be lost. Priceless family photos, fun videos with friends, key work files, and important school assignments that were a work in progress can be lost. Backing up your files isn’t that hard nor is it expensive. And, to make things even better and easier, you have many different options from cloud-based backups (such as GoogleDrive, OneDrive, or DropBox), convenient USB thumb drives, portable hard drives, and even specialized backup drives. A good practice is to make sure your files are backed up daily, or at least weekly.
Keep Your Software Updated
Software updates can be a pain, but they are vital to ensuring that your computer and software runs smoothly. In fact, one of the major reasons that updates are released is to fix bugs and issues that could make your computer vulnerable to cyber threats. Hackers know about these bugs and vulnerabilities. If you don’t allow your system to install the patches and fixes, then you are making yourself a prime target for a cyber attack.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to perform updates in the middle of your work anymore. Most software (and smartphones) will give you options for when the update should take place, so you can choose times when you aren’t busy on your computer.
Be Smart When Using Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi in places like fast food restaurants and coffee shops can be tempting to use when you need an internet connection, but they can also be dangerous. These public Wi-Fi networks are a common target of hackers, and even hackers with minimal skill can quickly figure out things like your social media credentials and more.
If you do have to use public Wi-Fi, take safety precautions such as turning off network discovery, file sharing, and printer sharing and make sure your firewall is turned on. Don’t be an easy target for hackers.
Make Use of Antivirus Software and Passwords
Would you leave your front door unlocked if you lived in a high-crime neighborhood? Well, the internet is a high-crime neighborhood. Failure to use updated anti-virus software and good passwords is the same as leaving your door unlocked. You can’t afford to make it easy for the wrong people to access your personal and financial information.
Your first line of defense lies in the passwords you choose. Don’t use easy to guess passwords, and don’t use the same passwords for everything. Include letters and symbols with your passwords to make them harder to crack, and add some numbers for good measure.
Your second line of defense, much like a deadbolt for your front door, is anti-virus and firewall software. They don’t have to be expensive in order to do a good job of protecting your computer. It is also vital that you keep your anti-virus and firewall software updated and don’t ignore alerts they provide.
Be Careful with Email
Going back to our analogy of living in a high crime area: if your doorbell rang in the middle of the night, would you fling the door open and invite whoever it was inside? You would probably want to make sure who it was, and even check their ID if they claimed to be some kind of official demanding access to your home. Strangely enough, far too often we inadvertently provide access to individuals with malicious intentions when we click on links in emails without making sure where those emails are really from.
In short, don’t open an email unless you have a good idea of who it is from, and beware of clicking links in emails even if they seem to be from friends. Be cautious about opening attachments, too. In short, be as careful with your email as you are with your front door.
You work hard to keep yourself safe from physical dangers such as criminals and disease. It makes sense that you should work just as hard to keep your electronic devices safe, too. Backing up files (including documents, photos, and videos), keeping your software updated, and being smart when on public Wi-Fi is a good start. Add to that antivirus and firewall software, robust passwords, and the careful use of email and you are on the road to developing excellent computer habits that will keep your files, data, and personal information safe.