Safety in cyber space: Online safety at home

Keeping your devices safe should be a relatively straight forward task, however, a recent google search for "How to keep my PC safe" highlighted the confusion that can be encountered by the end user.

Results varied from "Seven steps to keeping your computer safe" to "16 effective tips to keep your computer safe and secure".

While the information in each one of these pages is accurate, how do you determine whether you need to implement all 16 steps, or is seven enough.

By reviewing a handful of sites, I have identified some common steps or tips, which when applied together should go a long way in keeping your devices safe.

1. Update OS and Software

Keep your computer up to date.

Check from time to time if there are updates on the operating system and software available.

The updates will help fix certain irregularities in your system that may increase the risk of threats entering your computer.

2. Check your firewall

The firewall acts as a barrier between the computer and any unauthorised programs trying to access the system through the internet.

Most computer systems, especially Windows have built-in firewall hardware.

Check if it is turned on.

You can also install firewall software for more security.

3. Back up your data

Make sure that you back up all your data to an external storage.

Backing up can be done online or through an external storage device.

You can send all your data to online cloud storage like Dropbox and Google Drive.

This is important in case your computer crashes due to power outage or cyber-attack.

4. Passwords/Pass phrases

One of the most important ways to ensure that your online interactions are safe and secure is to protect your passwords.

The good news is that protecting your passwords is in your control, you just need to create strong passwords and then keep them secret.

Follow this advice to help keep your passwords out of the wrong hands.

Create strong passwords

Password security starts with creating a strong password. A strong password is:

  • At least 8 characters or more-the longer the better
  • A combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols
  • Not a word that can be found in a dictionary
  • Not the name of a person or a popular entity such as a character, product, or organisation
  • Significantly different from your previous passwords
  • Easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess

I can talk solely on passwords and pass phrases, so I will cover this another time.

5. Anti - Virus

It is a standard that you install an anti-virus software on your computer.

There is free anti-virus software available on the internet.

Apart from the virus, there are other software that specifically target other threats including malware, spyware, and Trojans, among others that slow down the performance of your computer.

6. Browser

Use browsers that are common and are known to be safe and trusted.

The most reliable browsers available are Firefox, Safari, and Chrome.

These browsers have built-in security features that minimize the risk of your computer from acquiring viruses, malware, etc.

You can also check the security and privacy settings of the browsers where you can manage certain areas in the browser that strengthens the security.

7. User awareness

Implementing the above is all well and good however, if the user doesn't understand the importance, or can't be bothered, the other steps could be a waste of time.

It is recommended that all computer users undertake some type of cyber awareness training, this could be as easy as visiting and working through the content, participating in the Be Connected program for Seniors, or asking advice from local IT support businesses.

The above seven steps aren't designed to give 100 per cent protection, however it will minimise the damage or loss, should a system become compromised.