Securing Your Computer
Don’t run an out of date operating system
People are constantly finding vulnerabilities in operating systems, and vendors like Microsoft, Apple, Google and Canonical are issuing updates to patch those vulnerabilities on a regular basis. If you are using an old operating system like Windows 7 online, then you are not secure. Extended support for Windows 7 ended on January 14 2020, well over three years ago now. Extended support for Windows 8 ended on July 11 2023. Support for Windows 10 is going to end on October 14 2025. If you are still running Windows 7 or Windows 8 then you really should either upgrade to Windows 10 or Windows 11, or a Linux distribution, or Google Chrome OS Flex. After October 14 2025 you should discontinue using Windows 10. If your computer does not support Windows 11 and you want to keep using it online, you should upgrade to a Linux distribution or Google Chrome OS Flex.
If you are running Windows, then ensure you’re running antivirus software
Every version of Windows since Windows 8 has had antivirus software built into it called Windows Defender. So, out of the box, you are protected against viruses and malware that you may encounter while you are online. However, there are third-party applications such as AVG and Bitdefender that do a better job of identifying viruses and malware. These applications have free editions which offer a good level of protection, but you can also get the paid versions that provide even better detection.
Ensure you have a user account/sign on password
Backup your important files to multiple locations
You should always have an onsite backup of your files (such as to an external hard drive or network-attached storage (NAS) unit) and an offsite backup, which could be to a cloud service like OneDrive or Google Drive or by storing an external hard drive at a friend or family member’s house. If you are only doing an onsite backup (e.g. to an external hard drive) then you are vulnerable if your house is broken into or there is a fire. An offsite backup adds an extra layer of protection and ensures there is always a backup copy of your important data available.
Use a VPN for extra security when you’re browsing
If you are using your Wi-Fi network at home, then it should be secure, because you should be familiar with all the other devices that are connecting to it. Therefore, it should be safe to access banking websites and other highly sensitive information sources from your home network. However, if you are out and about with your laptop, tablet or smartphone and are using public Wi-Fi networks such as those found at shopping centres, restaurants or hotels, then it is a different situation. You don’t know how these networks have been setup, and you don’t know anything about the other devices that are connecting on these networks. Therefore, it is advisable to use a virtual private network (VPN) which will route all your traffic through a different network that has been certified to be secure by the vendor that is providing it. If someone did try to access your laptop while you are connected to a VPN, then all they would see would be your connection to the VPN. Popular choices of VPN providers are Private Internet Access, NordVPN and ExpressVPN.