How to secure home computers
People keep telling you to be concerned about home computer security. And you are! But what exactly does that mean? It doesn’t mean constantly obsessing with technical settings, and you don’t have to become a network or cybersecurity professional. You just need to be smart, pay attention, and use some simple technology safeguards to do the rest.
The “being smart, paying attention” part of home computer security is similar to the common sense you use in the rest of your life, when you aren’t on your computer. So, for example:
- If an online ad, email, or website seems too good to be true, it probably is – same as the unsolicited get-rich-quick schemes you might get via junk mail or see in a newspaper.
- Don’t click on anything you aren’t sure is safe, and don’t open file attachments that show up in email unexpectedly – just as you wouldn’t wander down a scary-looking dark alley at 3 a.m.
- If a financial institution or government agency sends you an urgent message you weren’t expecting, don’t respond directly. Find the institution’s official contact information, and contact them directly there. (You want to know you’re in touch with the “real” organization, not impersonators.)
- Don’t hand out your social security number and other private information like candy. Think of it more like 24k gold manhole covers. Same goes for posting deeply personal information on social media sites – just like you shouldn’t talk about that stuff where strangers might overhear you.
- Don’t use unsecured public Wi-Fi networks – you don’t know if someone’s intercepting your data. Just like you wouldn’t leave all your credit cards on the table at a coffee shop and walk away.
- Keep data backups somewhere safe – just as you’d keep valuables in a safe or safe deposit box.
Common sense will take you a long way. But it can’t be the whole story, because smart criminals are constantly inventing new ways to grab your data, take control of your computer, and use them against you. So you need some basic home computer security technology to back you up.
For example, you need a firewall that keeps strangers from directly accessing your computer across the internet. Fortunately, these days, there’s a firewall built into Windows, and if you use a high-speed internet connection, there’s probably a firewall built into your router, too. Your job is just to make sure they’re turned on and protected by solid passwords.
Beyond a firewall and passwords, you need:
- Strong anti-malware software that keeps checking in real time to make sure no malicious software runs – because it can recognize tell-tale “signatures” of malware, and because it uses machine learning to recognize how malware behaves, it can halt malware it’s never seen before
- Ransomware protection to prevent ransomware from encrypting your files and demanding payment to release them
- Web security software that recognizes dangerous or compromised websites, and help you stay away from them
- Identity, banking, and privacy protection tools that give special protection to your usernames and passwords, prevent keyloggers from capturing all your keystrokes, and keep hackers from controlling your webcam
Once upon a time, you had to buy and manage separate products for each of these tasks, and then buy separate copies for each computer you wanted to secure. It’s a lot easier now, because they’re all built into a single product, Sophos Home Premium. What’s more, one subscription to Sophos Home Premium lets you centrally protect as many as 10 Windows and Mac computers, wherever they are – so you can protect your kids while they’re off at college, and even your aunt who keeps calling you because her computer is full of strange popup messages.
When you subscribe, it is Sophos’ job to help protect you against new malware and web threats as they come along. You shouldn’t be all alone out there – and you won’t be.