Keep Hackers out of your computer
Apart from following the basic steps like keeping your Windows operating system and software up-to-date, keeping your Firewall turned on, using a good antivirus software or an Internet Security Suite, here are a few precautions you should follow.
Use a strong password for user and online accounts
Easy passwords make it easier for anyone to log into your account and take it over. In most cases, the hackers will change the password after taking over your machine so that you cannot log in. What happens afterward to reclaim the machine is a tedious process. It is always recommended to use strong passwords, which contain alphanumeric characters and also include special characters.
You can force it on the Windows users to harden the login password policy and create a strong password. You can also make it possible that the account is locked down after three attempts. Read our article on restricting login attempts.
For online accounts, I will recommend using a password manager software such as LastPass that generates secure passwords and stores them safely so that you can use them without having to remember each. Further, it is better to have different passwords for different sites so that if one account is compromised, others are still safe. The first among all tips to prevent hacking is to use a strong password.
You never know what kind of programs are installed on your computer when you buy a new one. Lenovo presented a good example by installing Superfish that made it possible for cybercriminals to initiate Man in the Middle Attacks. A new computer comes with plenty of software that you won’t ever need. The first step after getting a new computer is to remove all crapware and the programs that you won’t need. There are certain third-party crapware removal tools that let you decide what programs to keep and automate the removal of crapware. You can use any such program, or you can remove unwanted programs and toolbars manually. The manual method is safer though it takes some perspiration on your part. If you see a program that you can’t understand, it is better to consult someone and then remove it.
Choose your web browser wisely – Use security addons
Web browsers are the medium that allows us to connect to the Internet and interact with it. There are many browsers out there in the market. Choose your browser wisely. It should be able to protect you even as you are surfing. For example, Internet Explorer has SmartScreen Filter that tries to check out the reliability of websites. If you are using Google Chrome, you will find add-ons that tell you if a website is reliable. Likewise, for Firefox, NoScript allows you to browse securely by blocking unwanted scripts. You can allow scripts only on the websites you want. Further, make sure that the browser is always up to date, as it is a common vector, hackers use to compromise systems.
Use HTTPS as far as possible
HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. HTTPS is an advanced version that has an S appended to the protocol and means that the connection to the website would be “secure.” By “secure”, it means “encrypted”. One cannot simply make it HTTPS. For a website to become HTTPS, it has to pass a variety of tests that examine if the website is indeed as secure as it is meant to be. Almost all social networking sites provide HTTPS. All e-commerce stores also provide HTTPS. With HTTPS, you are protected better than just an HTTP connection that may or may not be secure.
To make sure that you do not forget using HTTPS, you can set up Group Policy in Windows 8.1. There are plugins available for browsers that make sure the websites are forced to load the HTTPS version always so that your login credentials and bank or card details are safe. One such plugin is “HTTPS Everywhere” and it is available for browsers based on Google Chrome and Firefox. For Internet Explorer, well, it is being retired with Windows 10 and I hope the new ‘Spartan’ browser will have something similar sooner or later.
Use Two-Step Authentication wherever possible
Most websites these days provide you with two-step authentications. That is, in addition to logging in with your user ID and password, you have to enter additional information that is sent to a personal device such as a phone. Bank websites, cloud storage, etc. give you the benefit of two-factor authentication. Some social networking sites and email service providers too offer you the feature. This helps you stay safe because even if someone can crack your password, he or she may not be able to get access to your account as the second step is usually related to a personal device, most often, a phone, to which a PIN is sent. Unless the hacker also has access to the phone, the login attempts will fail, and you will remain safe.
Two-step authentication may be a little irritating when using multiple devices or clients to access the accounts. For example, if you are trying to login via your Phone and the message is sent to the phone, you have to quit the app to check the PIN. This becomes frustrating sometimes. In such cases, you may have to create an app password for each client or device, so that it becomes easier to operate from devices like phone or tablets. Check out an example of securing OneDrive account using two-step authentication. As they say, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Switch off Computer or Internet connection
Lastly, always turn off your Computer or switch off the Internet connection. This is because, with the growth of high-speed Internet connections, many users opt to keep their computers on all the time, even when they are away from the machine for a long time. Such “Always On” computers are more susceptible.
Do not download email attachments from unknown senders. These days you also have to be very careful what you download and where you download from. Such and more such rules also need to be followed. Stay alert at all times. The online world can be as bad as the offline world!
There is no sure-shot protection against hackers and malware. These tips to prevent hackers are just a few of the many precautions you need to take when computing.
If you wish to share any more tips to prevent hacking and hackers, please do share.