Occasionally the media presents a story in which a major company suffered a data breach, with thousands of records of personal data stolen by hackers. But data breaches don’t just affect big companies — thousands of small businesses and individuals suffer attacks by hackers and identity thieves every day, and many of the victims don’t even know until it’s too late.
Thankfully, there are certain steps you can take to protect your computer from hackers and significantly reduce the risk of sensitive information being stolen before you’ve had a chance to monitor your credit.
1. Install Virus Protection Software
The most important thing you can do to protect your data is to install a good virus protection program. Hackers often gain access to a computer by using a type of programming similar to some viruses, referred to as malware or spyware. Many individuals often unknowingly download malware by accident.
Virus protection software will recognize malware and spyware and alert you to the intrusion, as well as stop the virus from attacking your computer or stealing your data.
2. Turn on Your Computer’s Firewall
Every computer comes equipped with a firewall, which is a defensive program that prevents unauthorized access to the computer. This is another strong line of defense and, when coupled with virus protection software, presents an incredibly strong barrier against hackers.
3. Perform Regular Updates
Hackers often take advantage of security flaws in a computer system’s programming. The annoying update popups that you see shouldn’t be ignored. Often they contain fixes for those security flaws, helping to prevent hackers from exploiting them. Virus protection software should also be updated regularly, as hackers are always trying to discover new ways to get past the protection.
Tip: Use a cloud-based virus protection application. It will automatically download updates as soon as they are released so that you’ll have the latest protection.
4. Do Not Access Websites That Contain Sensitive Data When on Public Wi-Fi
Airports, hotels, coffee shops and many other establishments offer free Wi-Fi. But accessing sites like your bank, credit card institutions, eBay, PayPal, etc. while on public Wi-Fi may allow hackers to steal your data. Savvy hackers can hijack a public Wi-Fi signal and see the data that is being transmitted, such as usernames and passwords.
5. Use Different Passwords for Every Site and Don’t Tell Anyone What They Are
Using different passwords for each site prevents hackers from gaining access to them all if they do happen to get one password. Use an app such as Password Manager to keep track of your different passwords. And don’t tell anyone who doesn’t need to know — quite often co-workers and even family members can be the culprit.