How do I protect myself against online threats?
The best protection against online threats would be to disconnect yourself from the internet. Let’s face it, this is not a very practical solution in today’s world. The internet is everywhere! It is showing up on our phones, watches, computers, TVs, cars, printers, refrigerators, thermostats, speakers, and many other devices.
Firstly, it is recommended to have a good antivirus and anti-malware solution in place. Our recommendations would include Windows Defender (Windows 10) and Malwarebytes Premium. Windows Defender has gained ground and is getting better every day. With a modern Windows 10 computer there are security settings available at a glance in the Windows Security Center. One such security feature, that should be turned on, is “Controlled Folder Access.” This is found under Settings, Update & Security, Windows Security, Virus and Threat Protection, Ransomware Protection. The feature will help stop applications from writing to folders, essentially blocking them based upon permissions.
Next, enable your Windows Firewall. Despite what people have heard about the Windows Firewall it is a good simple solution to be sure that you don’t have rogue applications trying to access your computer and your data without your knowledge. I’ve seen many people disable the Windows Firewall because it blocked a business application or some other program from running properly. This is not recommended. It is much better to figure out why the Windows Firewall is blocking access and enable the correct application, port, or protocol then to disable the firewall. There are other third-party firewall solutions available from several different vendors. I’ve found that they are more cumbersome and require more time to configure and often cause unnecessary performance loss on the computers. Another kind of firewall would be in the form of a hardware firewall. This is a network device that is installed between your internet provider’s equipment and your internal network. An example of a hardware firewall would be a Dell Sonicwall. This device needs to have rules configured to allow internet traffic to flow from the inside network to the outside (ISP) network.
Further, learning to avoid websites that are full of ads is a must! Many advertisers on the internet are not monitored and many sites such as Yahoo and AOL have been plagued with drive by infections due to the ads that are being displayed on the site. Even email services have advertisements plastered all over their sites. Two email services that can be used without the ads are Gmail and Outlook.com. Outlook requires a small annual fee for ad-free usage and Gmail has ads, but they are not as apparent as say Yahoo or AOL. Speaking of websites, many of them ask for notifications to be allowed based upon the web browser that you are using. If notifications are plaguing you, they can be turned off in the browser settings.
Lastly, the password strength of sites that you visit matter a lot. The stronger your password the better you can protect your accounts and your online identity. Enabling 2-factor authentication, where available, is a good solution too. If you decide to enable 2-factor authentication be sure that you remember the answers to your secret questions and have full access to other email accounts and your mobile phone. Using applications such as Roboform or LastPass may be something to consider and might save time when accessing a lot of stored websites. However, I would still recommend writing your passwords down in a notebook and storing that notebook in a place that only you and trusted people would have access.
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