Protecting your Computer from Hacking

We’ve all seen movies or TV shows about how prodigies are able to enter the most sophisticated systems like NASA or the Pentagon. Think Mr.Robot or an old movie from the 90’s called Hackers.

Nowadays, most hackers aren’t aiming for the big banks. They’ve found a much easier target: us!

With the massive expansion and generalization of both household computers and Internet, hackers have a field day, everyday.

What is hacking anyway?

“Hacking,” which originates from a Germanic word meaning “to cut in pieces,” is the process of compiling information (or anything, really) together in a novel way that results in something interesting or useful.

Today, the term “hacker” is more frequently used to describe someone who discovers and exploits a computer system weakness or vulnerability. Hackers use vulnerabilities to block system access, gather information, or gain access to more computers in a network.

This can wreak havoc on anyone’s life, particularly when the hack is done to access money, steal identity or blackmail.

There is only one sure way to protect yourself

It’s basically not to have and use any computer, cell phone and internet connection. It’s also not to have any online account whatsoever. Good luck with that in 2020!

Unfortunately, there is no sure, fireproofed way to prevent hacking. However, let’s examine a few tips that can deter hackers.

1. Install an anti-malware program

Viruses, Trojans, spyware, ransomware are everywhere. Some spyware records every keystroke to gain access to passwords and other information.

Many firms like AVG, Norton or McAfee offer bundled-package with an array of protections. You have to pay a subscription.

This is definitely a worthy purchase. These programs will stop threats in real-time and have updated virus lists.

Once installed, don’t forget to run scans regularly.

2. Ensure firewall is on

A firewall is a system designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network. Both Apple and Microsoft operating systems have a built-in firewall. Ensure it’s on before connecting to the Internet.

3. Use a VPN

When you connect to a network, your computer communicates directly with the Internet, broadcasting a unique IP address that identifies that computer along with its physical location as “yours”. This communication is often unencrypted, so that anyone logging that traffic knows every site you visit.

A VPN -Virtual Private Network- will hide your IP address and location and encrypt what you do online. Some anti-virus firms like AVG offers this service. Otherwise you can try NordVPN or Express VPN. This is also a worthy purchase.

4. Create strong and different passwords

59% of us use the same password for all our accounts! Many of us use easy passwords such as first names, children’s names, pets’names, birth dates etc…

Password hacking is the most basic hack. Hackers have an arsenal of tools to break short, easy passwords in seconds.

A strong password should have at least 8 characters -the more, the better- ; have both upper and lower cases, numbers or special characters -e.g. $ or *-.

Passwords also need to be periodically changed.

5. Use 2-step verification

As indicated in its name, a 2-step verification process requires 2 things:

  • Something you know: passwords, answers to security questions or PIN. A hacker can know this too!
  • Something you have: namely your smartphone. It’s unlikely a hacker would have access to both your account info and your cell phone at the same time.

When you log in, say in your Facebook account, you enter your password. Then FB asks you to enter a code. That code can be either texted to your cell or retrieved from an authenticator app. An authenticator generates a new code for your accounts every minute.

You can use the Google Authenticator. It’s free and works for a variety of accounts such as PayPal or Amazon, as well as any social media.

You need to enable the 2-step verification feature in all your accounts. This feature is usually found in the “account settings”.

6. Keep your operating system, apps and browsers up to date

Always install new updates to your operating systems when required. Most updates include security fixes that prevent hackers from accessing and exploiting your data.

The same goes for your favorite apps and browser.

7. Screen your e-mails

A lot of hacking is done via e-mails nowadays. Over the years, it has become more and more sophisticated.

Phishing/scam e-mails now look very legitimate…except they’re not. These e-mails can appear to come from your bank but also your friends and relatives.

As a rule of thumb, banks, utility companies and government agencies will never e-mail you to ask for your credit card info, your mother’s maiden name or any other sensitive information, or to “verify” your account.

Apply the same analysis to suspicious-sounding e-mails from friends or relatives. Do not open any link or attachments accompanying them. These can contain viruses or other malware.

8. Don’t use public wi-fi

WiFi networks in coffee-shops or airports are neither protected nor encrypted. Use portable or pocket WiFi like GlocalMe instead.

9. Regularly back-up your computer’s contents

You can either use a Cloud storage or an external drive such as a USB key. It’s a great way to ensure your data is retrievable, should something happen, like ransomware.

10. Shut it down

Turn-off your computer when you’re done. It’s way more difficult, if not impossible in most cases, to hack a computer that is turned-off.

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