10 Ways To Secure Your Windows PC
Is your Windows computer safe? You’d be surprised how many people who aren’t tech-savvy don’t realize they’re leaving gaping holes in their systems that make them vulnerable to hacking. Here are 10 essential security measures you can put in place to protect your machine and all the information on it, whether you own your own PC or share one with others. Even if you don’t think you have anything worth stealing, it pays to take precautions. After all, the best way to secure your computer is to never let anyone else get their hands on it!
1) Use Two-Step Verification
Once you’ve set up your account, use two-step verification to add an extra layer of protection. This adds a code sent via text or generated by an authenticator app onto your login attempt in addition to your username and password. If a hacker gets access to your password, it won’t be able to log in unless he or she also has access to that second factor.
Set it up by going to your account settings page, clicking Manage two-factor authentication and following any steps to verify your phone number or email. You’ll need to enter a special code that changes every 30 seconds every time you log in. Make sure you have your phone with you whenever you sign in for an extra layer of protection.
Use an authenticator app instead of a text message for added security. Google has its own or you can choose from other apps such as Authy or Duo Mobile .
2) Limit Access to Apps and Websites
Allowing apps and websites access to your data is convenient, but it can also make you vulnerable to hackers. Be sure to limit access for apps that you don’t need, and make sure your operating system has all of its security updates. Additionally, encrypting your hard drive will keep unauthorized people from accessing your personal files if they do hack into your computer. You can encrypt it on both Mac and Windows computers by using FileVault in OS X or BitLocker in Windows.
Also, be sure to log out of apps and close your web browser when you’re done using them. This prevents people from accessing your data if they access your computer after you’ve left it unattended. Also, don’t just select Remember Me when logging into apps and websites; instead, set a complex password for each one so that others can’t easily break into them later.
3) Encrypt Data on Disk
Encrypting your data on disk is a must. This helps keep prying eyes from finding and stealing your private files even if they get their hands on your computer. With BitLocker, a feature of Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows Vista/7, you can encrypt an entire volume (which can be an internal hard drive or external USB flash drive). An alternative is to encrypt only specific folders.
You’ll need to create a recovery key that you can use if something happens to your encrypted hard disk so that you can decrypt your data. Then, to take full advantage of BitLocker’s security features, you should turn off all auto-run programs such as iTunes and QuickTime. BitLocker won’t encrypt files in any of these auto-run directories automatically when it turns on encryption. You’ll have to manually add them.
4) Set a Password for Sleep and Hibernate
By setting a password for sleep and hibernate, you can make sure that only authorized users can get into your computer in those states. If you’re using a laptop, there is always a chance that someone could steal it from your home or workplace. The best way to prevent someone from accessing your private information is to keep them out of your computer. Set a password for sleep and hibernate to protect yourself against someone stealing your laptop while you’re away.
5) Lock Down User Accounts
The first thing you should do to secure your machine is to lock down user accounts. This gives you control over what resources any given user can access, and it prevents them from installing software or changing system settings. Here’s how you can do that: Go to Settings, then Security and click Add or remove user accounts.
The second thing you should do to secure your machine is enable BitLocker. With BitLocker, you can encrypt your drive so that if it’s stolen, nobody can read its contents without knowing a decryption key. While Microsoft enables BitLocker by default on Pro and Enterprise versions of Windows, home users have to enable it themselves: Go to Settings, then Update & Security > Backup > Configure encrypted backup.
6) Use Antivirus Software
Some operating systems include built-in antivirus software, but if you use a different OS or want an extra layer of protection, we recommend looking into third-party options. (Though some of these require monthly fees to use.) Check out Panda Cloud Antivirus Free , Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2017 , Avast Premier , and Kaspersky Anti-Virus . Be sure to keep your antivirus software updated so it’s always ahead of any emerging threats.
Other malware prevention tools exist, too. Consider a security suite like Bitdefender Total Security or Kaspersky Anti-Virus . Many have firewall and password manager features to protect you from malicious attacks. As with antivirus software, it’s important to keep your virus protection up to date so that it’s always able to spot and block new threats as they emerge.
7) Don’t Ignore Updates
Keeping your computer up-to-date is one of the most effective ways to protect it. On any given day, Microsoft releases fixes for vulnerabilities found in its products, and you should take advantage of those updates—if you don’t, you leave your computer vulnerable.
8) Regularly Scan Your PC
Antivirus software can’t catch everything. Regularly run scans on your computer to make sure no one has installed malicious software you don’t know about. If you can, try and schedule these scans for when you’re not around so they don’t interfere with day-to-day work, but it doesn’t hurt to just do them while you work either! Speaking of which…
9) Don’t Download Malicious Files
The simplest way to protect your computer is to not download anything you weren’t expecting. If a link or file looks suspicious or like it came from an unknown sender, just don’t download it. The safest way to deal with viruses and malware is simply to avoid them altogether—don’t click on anything that seems sketchy.
10) Keep Your Hardware Up To Date
Security experts say that keeping your hardware up to date is essential to keeping your Windows machine secure. The latest updates tend to come with bug fixes and performance improvements, so you shouldn’t hold back on installing them when they pop up in your system tray. You should also be vigilant about applying security updates as they become available.
If you’re not sure whether you have all of your updates installed, head to Control Panel > System and Security > Check for Updates. If there are any updates available, they should be installed automatically, or at least prompt you to install them right away.
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