Use the latest operating system from Microsoft available when at all possible. When Windows XP was released, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread – but it was also full of security issues, which got much, much worse as time went on. Windows XP is now ranked one of the most unsecure and dangerous operating systems in the world. In other words, don’t use Windows XP; instead, use Windows 7, 8, or 10 – preferably Windows 10 – because each edition of Windows contains more security features to protect you from today’s threats.
Never, ever call a 1-800 number to “fix” a “computer problem” that spontaneously appears out of nowhere – especially while you’re browsing the Internet. These are scams. Examples include: you visit a website and all the sudden, your computer starts talking to you and says you’re infected; it then conveniently provides a 1-800 number to “fix” the problem. Another example: you visit a website and you experience a (fake) “blue screen of death” or a fake “firewall warning” message, along with a 1-800 number to “fix” the problem. Another example: you visit a webpage and all the sudden it lists your IP address, your country, location, and even your Internet Service Provider, then tells you to call a 1-800 number because you’re “infected”. These are scams for fake tech support with the average cost of $300 or more, plus the risk of identify theft. Once these scammers get your credit card, they will hound you repeatedly for more “fixes” to up the ante.
If “Microsoft” calls you on the phone and says your computer is “infected”, tell them to pound sand and immediately hang up the phone. I have another post that goes in depth about this. This is a scam for fake tech support, similar to the above example, with the average cost of $300 or more, plus the risk of identify theft. These bastards won’t give up easily and will likely call you repeatedly – you need to be resilient and simply hang up. Note that the real Microsoft Corporation does not solicit tech support over the phone. In fact, if any “technician” solicits you on the phone out of the blue and claims you have a virus, or that they want to get into your computer for this, that, or anything else – it’s probably a scam! Take note – if they usually solicit you – not you soliciting them – it’s probably a scam!
Backup your system regularly using disk images. Do the backups locally – not on the cloud – preferably on an external hard drive. Disk images are the best backup choice because they can restore both operating system and user files, whereas simple backup programs can only restore user files. Cloud backups are not ideal for disk images because it requires backing up the entire hard drive, which would take days, if not weeks to backup (and restore) over the Internet due to inadequate connection speeds. Cloud backups for the most part are simply a bad decision, cost money, and are not necessary – this is especially true when free cloud backups exist – but only for a small subset of data. Besides that, cloud backups cannot restore your operating system especially if the operating system is unbootable; disk image backups always have a bootable recovery environment (usually on CD or USB) in such cases.
Download Windows Updates and install them whenever they become available. Most operating system security issues are related to loopholes in the graphical user interface (GUI) of Windows. Therefore, you need to patch your system regularly, and as soon as the patches become available. If you are worried that a patch may install improperly and cause problems on your machine, you can use a disk image backup to rollback if necessary. There is no reason to delay patching your system.
Always keep your antivirus up to date and do a full system scan once in a while (example: every 30 days). Most antivirus programs will patch themselves automatically, but it’s important to check the interface to ensure the antivirus is running and that your system is protected. Also, be aware of fake antivirus and fake antimalware programs online – these are scams. Stick to brand names like Avast, Avira, Norton, Mcafee, and the like.
Don’t go overboard on “protection” with third-party utilities that claim to “protect” your system “more” than the operating system already does, as this will only serve to slow your computer down to a crawl. This is especially true if you are running Windows 10, which offers the most protection for PCs. The only protection you need is a properly configured firewall (the Windows Firewall works fine as it is), and real-time antivirus file scanning.
Don’t click on email attachments even if they come from “friends”. The rule here is: if you didn’t ask for it, don’t click it and certainly don’t install it, no matter how convincing the source may be. If your friend gets infected with malware, the malware will propagate itself by emailing everyone on his contact list with a convincing “personalized” message, usually asking to open some sort of email attachment (which then infects you) or click on a link (with the potential to infect you). Only open an email attachment if and only if you’ve expressly asked for the attachment ahead of time.
Never, ever download or install a program from a source you don’t otherwise have a trust relationship with. For example: if you click on a friend’s email link that contains a “funny video” and it takes you to a website you’ve never been to before, which then promises to ‘fix’ a problem for your computer, or provides you with something that seems too good to be true, don’t click it and don’t install it. Remember: if you didn’t ask for it, don’t click it and certainly don’t install it, no matter how convincing the source may be.
Should you download a program from a reputable website and install the program to your machine, always be careful to read through the EULA (end user license agreement) to make sure the program you’re installing isn’t going to spy on you or install third-party programs. Also, whenever possible, don’t install any “third party offers” that prompt you during a program installation (otherwise known as “bundled goodies”), as they are usually scams. Remember: if you didn’t ask for it, don’t click it and certainly don’t install it, no matter how convincing the source may be.
Always keep banking and other financial information secure, encrypted, and password protected. Should your system become compromised, you don’t want hackers accessing your financial data in a plain text file. Instead, use a password-protected and encrypted file to store such information.
Don’t use the same password on every website – this is one of the best things you can do online to help keep online data breaches under control. Use unique, strong passwords for every website you visit. This will lessen the chance of a hacker gaining access to one account, and then accessing all your accounts online. If possible, use a password manager like Roboform (That is what I have used over 10 years) that can encryp,t and keep track of all your passwords, and automatically fill forms for you.
When in doubt: hire a good tech that knows what he’s doing, is trustworthy and has your best interest at heart, and will always steer you in the right direction. I provide such a service. If you need to get in touch, all you need to do is contact me at: