As long as we are online, we are vulnerable to malware, viruses etc. that can steal sensitive information, hijack web sessions/webcams or spy on our keystrokes. This is especially true in cases where individuals are specifically targeted by those who have the persistence, time and skills to profile and craft an attack.
There are some things you can do now to minimize your risk and reduce the impact, should you get hacked. This is by no means a comprehensive list but a good start. Please share any additional tips in the comment section below. This information is applicable for home personal use.
1. Backup personal/sensitive files frequently. Encrypt, store & backup personal/sensitive information in a detachable hardware device (e.g. USB/hard disk). Any sensitive information should at least be encrypted and stored separately from a network-attached device. VeraCrypt and CipherShed are two free open-source encryption software solutions that are readily available for download. Just make sure you store your private keys in a safe location.
2. Optimize your firewall. You can use a free utility like Shields UP to allow you to check if you have any open ports that can be exploited. The utility also provides detailed explanation for the results you see and some advice about how to proceed. While enabling a firewall is certainly better than having none, default firewall configurations are often not restrictive enough (e.g. allowing connections to never-used applications installed during setup). Although you can configure your firewall to disable most outbound traffic, this requires some knowledge of firewall rules to set-up without stuffing up your internet connection. This is why it is important to…
3. Invest in a good Anti-Virus solution and keep your OS patched. Don’t skimp on anti-virus. The paid ones are often better at keeping up-to-date with the newest virus signatures. It is also important to ensure that you keep up-to-date with OS updates too. With Microsoft, you can also turn on automatic updates so you get the latest patches. If your OS is too old to be patched (e.g. Windows XP) – time to upgrade!
4. Switch to using Chrome. Chrome is considered the safest browser while Microsoft Internet Explorer has been plagued by malware and security defects. Another great thing about Chrome is that you can download an extension to use HTTPS everywhere to encrypt non-encrypted http traffic for added security
5. Go Green. Before submitting login/password details or inputting any sensitive information online (e.g. credit card information), make sure you are connecting via an encrypted https session. Furthermore, you can also check the organization that owns the certificate. In Chrome, you can do this by clicking the green lock on the address bar and viewing the Security Certificate.