Don't Become a Victim of a Hacker: 10 Tips Every Customer Should Know

By Special Guest
Paul Gossett
April 12, 2016

The stories about hackers stealing information from big companies and the government are scary. No one wants to hear that a big company failed to protect their private information. When it happens, they will wonder how a company did not give the security of their systems a high enough priority. People will claim that the company or the government was irresponsible and that someone needs to pay for any damage that was caused.

The hacking of the computers of big companies and governments does make a great news story, but they are not the only ones that are in danger of being hacked. The reality is that hackers are more intent on getting into the computers of private individuals and doing as much damage to the individual as they can. If a hacker is able to get into a private individual’s computer, would they be willing to take responsibility for any damages that occur as they expect a big company to do. It is up to individuals to learn how to keep their computers safe and secure and these are 10 things that everyone must know.

  1. Turn on the computer's firewall – Windows has a firewall that is designed to keep any unwanted software from getting onto the computer. It does have one major flaw. It has to be turned on to be effective. Check a computer’s setting to make sure that the firewall is turned on at all times.
  2. Antivirus software is a must –There are many people that think that all computers automatically contain protection against malware, viruses and other hacking attempts. That is not the case. There are plenty of different types of antivirus software that can be installed on a computer. There are programs for all types of computer devices, including mobile devices. Antivirus software can scan a computer for any malware on a regular basis, can warn users about potential threats to their computer especially when surfing the internet, can block malware when it sees it and can remove malware and viruses on a computer. Most antivirus software also has a firewall that takes the place of the computer's firewall. It is important to update your antivirus program frequently to make sure it can manage any of the threats that it faces.
  3. Choose the right operating system and the right internet browsers – Many computers come with a preloaded operating system, but for the most security from hackers, using the Linux operating system may be the best choice. There are no known virus threats against that operating system. When it comes to internet browsers, there are several choices that include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge. Chrome is considered the most secure web browser to use. No matter which operating system and browser that is used, to keep it safe, it has to be kept up to date. Regular updates or automatic updates are the best way to make sure that the operating system and browser are as safe as possible from hacker attacks.
  4. Learn how to use secure passwords – Many hackers are able to steal private information because the users fail to have secure passwords. Some of the most common passwords that are used include: 1234, password, or a person’s name. A strong password should include a combination of characters, upper and lower case letters, numbers and should not include a familiar word or phrase. In order to remember passwords an individual can turn to apps and other programs that help keep them safe.
  5. Add spyware protection – Spyware can sneak onto a computer and work behind the scenes to cause major problems. There is plenty of software such as Spybot and Malwarebytes that can scan the computer, find the spyware and remove it. This software needs to be run on a regular basis.
  6. Close all ports – Hackers will search for open ports through a method known as port scanners. When they find an open port they will use it to get into an individual’s computer. By making sure that all ports are closed, this situation can be avoided.
  7. Test your security – Sometimes this is called penetration testing. Software can be used to find vulnerabilities in a computer or a network that would allow them to gain access. Once the user has the information about where they can be attacked, they can take steps to shore up their defenses.
  8. Use software that can detect an intrusion – Software such as ossec or rkhunter is designed to detect intrusions by anyone in a computer or network.
  9. Use the internet and your computer wisely – Most of the damage that a hacker is able to do is a result of mistakes that the user makes. Phishing attempts are done through emails. In these, a person actually gives the hacker the information they want because they are asked for it. Clicking on links in emails or going to sites that are not trusted is the most common way for viruses, malware and spyware to get onto a computer. It is best to think before you provide any information or click on anything suspicious that is seen on a computer.
  10. Anyone can be a victim – The most important thing to remember is that anyone can become a victim of computer hackers. They are always looking for a way to inflict damage and steal information and they do not care if it comes from a big business or an individual. The dangers of a hacker are present when you are surfing the internet and when you are carrying your computer around. Hackers do not care who they are able to take advantage of. Everyone that uses a computer is at risk and needs to protect themselves.

Maintaining security when using a computer is not a new idea. It is something that has been talked about for a long time. Despite the signs that hackers are all around us, people still do not take the basic steps they need to do to make sure they are safe. Much of it is common sense. Put the defenses in place, learn how to keep a computer safe and make sure that it is always up to date.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about computer safety and the problems that hackers present, feel free to share them with us. The information you give could help keep someone else safe from the hackers of the world.

Paul Gossett is an digital strategist and a freelance writer having true passion for online media which has made him a learner of various workplace cultures and latest technologies. He loves sharing his knowledge to help entrepreneurs in disrupting the old ways of doing business

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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