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  • Writer's pictureCat Lund


The world is going crazy and it's all doom & gloom, but in the meantime we all still need to live our lives, so it's the internet to the rescue, with online shopping and deliveries saving the day.

Just remember you can catch viruses online as well as IRL (in real life!). If you have some time on your hands, aside from catching up with those box sets on Netflix, here are some jobs to do to help to keep your online activity safe - the computer equivalent of washing your hands!

1. Use a firewall

Computer operating systems like Windows have built-in firewalls, software designed to create a barrier between your information and the outside world. Your broadband router should also have a built-in firewall. Make sure the firewall is enabled before you go online.

2. Use your antivirus software

Antivirus software detects threats to ensure your data is safe. Run or schedule regular virus scans to keep your computer virus-free. The built in antivirus with Windows 10 is pretty good, but if you're worried...

3. ...use complex passwords.

Using secure passwords is the most important way to prevent a hacker invading your system. Don't use recognizable words or combinations that represent birthdays or other information that can be connected to you.

Hackers can break short, easy passwords in minutes. Unfortunately, more secure means longer and more complicated - at least eight characters and a combination of numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and computer symbols.

If you have too many passwords to remember, consider using a password manager like Dashlane, Sticky Password, LastPass or Password Boss - or even just a good old fashioned excel spreadsheet which is kept offline on a memory stick.

You should also use two-factor authentication. Passwords are the first line of defence, but a second layer boosts protection. Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft all let you enable two-factor authentication, which requires you to type in a numerical code in addition to your password when logging in.

With a bit of time on your hands, you should get those passwords you've had since 2010 updated!

If you're still worried....

4. ...ignore spam.

Beware of email messages from unknown senders. NEVER click on links or open attachments that accompany them. Phishing emails that mimic your friends, and trusted businesses like banks have proliferated. If it seems too good to be true... then it is.

5. Keep your operating system, apps and browser up to date.

Always install new updates to your operating systems as most updates include security fixes. The same goes for apps and web browsers. Your web browser can offer sophisticated settings for online security, so why not take the time to review your browser security settings, or switch to Chrome or Brave if you haven't already.

6. Back up your computer.

Backing up your information is critical in case the worst happens and hackers get through. Purchase an external backup hard drive and make a copy of your most important files.

7. Shut it down.

Switch off your machine overnight or during long stretches of time when you're not using it. Always being on makes your computer more visible. Shutting down breaks the connection a hacker may have established.

8. Use encryption.

Even if someone is able to steal your data or monitor your internet connection, encryption can prevent hackers from accessing any of that information. You can encrypt your Windows or macOS hard drive with BitLocker or FileVault, encrypt any USB flash drive that contains sensitive information, and use a VPN to encrypt your web traffic. Only shop at encrypted websites – you can spot them immediately by the "https" in the address bar accompanied by a closed padlock icon.

Good luck, my friends and stay safe out there! #TipsOnTuesday

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