Talking tech since 2003

I get this question all the time – how do you stay safe and secure online?  It’s a loaded question with many possible answers.  I’m going to outline five ways you can considerably help yourself and your computer stay safe and secure on the Internet.  However, before I start recommending software and tips to remain safe and secure, I need to point out the most important piece of information about all this advice.  None of this will help you unless you use some common sense while using your computer.

Seriously, common sense (just thinking before doing) is the best recommandation I can provide.  The reason for this is because even if you have all this security software that is up to date (and that’s important), the bad guys are always evolving and changing their techniques.  Which means you can still be vulnerable with the latest security software.  Bottom line: think before you click!  Now lets get to the tips and recommendations.

1. Use both an Anti-Virus and an Anti-Malware application.  Yes, there is a difference.  I recommend NOD32 (more Anti-Virus information here) for an Anti-Virus and Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware for an Anti-Malware program.  Additionally, do not run two Anti-Virus applications on your computer at once, ever.  This will cause conflicts and false positives.  There are also other preventive applications such as SpywareBlaster.  You may also want to invest in a firewall (if you have a router, they typically act as a firewall too).

2. Check out OpenDNS (my review can be found here).  It provides a number of features including phishing protection, typo correction, web content filtering, and more (all free).  Plus it will speed up your surfing – so why not use it?

3. Keep your software and operating system up to date – all the time!  That’s right – apply those updates!  Often times people think if they only do Windows Updates they will be fine.  That’s not correct.  There are security flaws found in software all the time and it is imperative you keep it up to date.  When a company releases an update, install it.  This applies to every piece of software you have installed (especially Windows, Adobe Flash and  Java).

4. Do not install random software because it popped up on your screen telling you need it.  Unless you installed it previously (because you wanted to) ignore those notifications and run an Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware scan because chances are you are infected with some kind of malicious software.  Ever see one of those messages prompting you to install some codec to watch a video?  Yeah, well don’t do it.  Those are notorious for infecting your computer with malicious software.

5. Always check for a valid SSL certificate when you purchase something from an online store.  If it doesn’t have a valid certificate, don’t buy there because your information isn’t safe.  If anyone ever emails you to confirm your bank account or social security number don’t email back or click the link provided in the email.  Likewise, if your friend IM’s you a link with some random text – don’t click that link.  It will infect you.  Going back to common sense why would your brothers girlfriend send you naughty pictures?  She wouldn’t.  So don’t click it.

BONUS TIP: Backup your important files to an external drive or using a backup service (such as Carbonite).  That way if you ever get infected and have to reinstall your operating system you won’t lose any of your data.  Trust me, data loss is not fun.  Lastly, a lot of people recommend different browsers for security.  I’m going to recommend you read this post to figure which browser is best for you.

Do you have any additional tips?  Leave a comment!

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