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8 Ways to Instantly Make Your Computer More Secure

Posted December 14th, 2015

locked keyboardIt’s no longer enough to rely on Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) to keep your PC secure. Online threats are becoming more sophisticated every day, requiring you to set up multiple lines of defense to keep your data safe. Below is a list of 8 things you can do to immediately boost your level of security.


1. Download a Third-Party Antivirus

Microsoft itself has said that MSE, or Windows Defender as it is now known, should be seen as the first layer of protection and recommends Windows users to use a third-party antivirus to handle more rigorous security needs. Antivirus software will alert you when a threat is detected and block it from entering your computer. It also allows you to run security scans to make sure certain files are secure or an entire hard drive is clear of threats.

There are plenty of free antivirus options to choose from, just be aware that many will try to upsell you to a paid version. This can be a bit of a nuisance, but it’s better than having malware or viruses slow your computer down or corrupt your data.


2. Keep UAC Enabled

User Account Control

User Account Control prevents malicious software from modifying your system without permission. It allows you to verify that the software you are wanting to install or download is secure and, in fact, the software you want to use. Sometimes clicking around the internet can have you downloading something you didn’t intend on, and having an extra step of confirmation helps to make sure nothing slips in unchecked.


3. Enable and Configure Your Firewall

Windows’s built-in firewall works well to block unsolicited incoming connections and protect your computer from malware that exploits unpatched vulnerabilities. For it to work at it’s best, however, it needs to be configured correctly.

Before you connect to a network or go online, make sure you select the correct type of network you are connecting to: Home, Work, or Public.

Windows Firewall

Selecting the Home option will make your shared files available to other people on the network. This is not something you would want to do if you were connected to a public network, say in a coffee shop. You would be better suited to select the Public option in this case, as it would prevent people from accessing your shared resources.


4. Uninstall Java

Java has seen huge security holes for many years now, especially when it’s not kept up to date. Since very few websites actually use Java applets, there really isn’t any need for it. The risk it carries far outweighs its usefulness.

To uninstall Java, go to the Control Panel and click on Programs and Features. Here you should see the list of programs currently installed on your computer. Find Java and click Uninstall.

Uninstall programs

If for some reason you need to use Java, you will be prompted to reinstall it. If you need it to run a game or some other program, you’ll still want to disable it on your browser.

How to Disable Java in Chrome

To do this in Chrome, type “about:plugins” into your address bar. Then find Java in the list and click on the disable button.

How to Disable Java in Internet Explorer

To do this in Internet Explorer, go to the Tools icon (looks like a gear in the upper right-hand corner) and go down to Manage add-ons. Find the Java plugin in the list. Click on it. Then hit the Disable button.

How to Disable Java in Firefox

To do this in Firefox, open the Firefox menu and click the Add-ons button. Then find everything with Java in the name and disable it.


5. Keep Your Software Updated

It’s important to install software updates as soon as they come out. These updates often include security patches that help keep the software secure. So, for the software you use on a regular basis, make sure the automatic-update feature is enabled—if the software has such a feature, that is. Otherwise, a box should pop up next time you open the program to alert you that a new update is available.


6. Watch What You Download

When you download a program, make sure you get it from the official website. Don’t click on advertisement banners and download them from there.

The same goes for software and other downloads that arrive in emails. You should also be careful of advertisement disguised as “Download” links.


7. Watch out for Phishing Scams

A phishing scam is similar to when someone calls you on the phone claiming to be your bank and asks for your private information (such as your account number, PIN, or social security number) except that a phishing scam is done online, typically through an email or a pop-up. Your bank would never reach out to you like this.

phishing scam email

As a rule, you should only disclose personal information to legitimate individuals and websites. If you want to check your bank account, go directly to your bank’s website or call their number. Do not click on a link sent to you in an email or send over your information in a reply.

For more email security tips, see our 9 Must-Follow Email Security Tips.


8. Don’t Reuse Passwords

By using a single username and password for all of your online accounts, you make it easier for attackers to gain access to your private information. If just one account becomes compromised, you leave your other accounts vulnerable as well. For this reason, you should give all of your accounts unique passwords to help strengthen their security.

For more on how to create a secure password, see our post: How to Create a Secure Password.

By following all of the suggested practices above, you will instantly make your computer a safer place to house your sensitive data and keep it running smoothly. For more ways to keep your data secure, contact PerformanceIT and ask about our Network Security, Backup and Recovery, or IT Support services.

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