Your computer security is as important as your home security!

Many home computer users don’t give a second thought to the security of their computers at home.  You can trust your ISP to keep you safe, right?

Wrong. They are only there to provide an internet feed to your house.  What happens after it hits your house, is all up to you.  Here are a few tips to ensure you stay safe while online:

  1. Secure your router – a router provided by the ISP will generally come with a basic default password.  Ensure you change this immediately.  As soon as you plug in that router and it connects to the internet, hackers may be able to connect and install malware.  Your neighbours may even connect to it and change settings.
  2. Create a complex Wi-Fi password – Most people are utilizing wireless connections nowadays, so ensure you are using a password that is secure enough.  For example, don’t use dictionary words – use a mix of letters, numbers, uppercase, lowercase and special characters. Something like \x&M-V<<D\j]G2A is a great password.  Malicious internet users can and do use programs to try and login as users using the dictionary as a source for possible passwords.
  3. Change the default network name of your Wi-Fi network – referred to as your SSID, ensure you change your network name to something personal.  Marking your network as hidden will not accomplish anything as scanning tools will find it regardless.  Personally identifying your network will ensure you always connect to the appropriate network.
  4. Select appropriate encryption protocols for your network – you will want to make sure you are using WPA2 encryption.  This will stop unauthorized people from snooping on your internet traffic and capturing your logins and passwords.
  5. If you have the option to enable a guest network, do so – this will allow your house guests to utilize your Internet connection, yet be separate from your own private network.  Ensure you select a unique SSID and a different complex password to maximize your protection.  This way, if your guests download something bad it won’t affect your own computers as they will be segregated on another network.
  6. Make sure you stay up to date on all of your devices! – One of the most important things to do is ensure that your computers stay up to date (Windows Update) as well as your phones, TVs, and any networking equipment (including your router).  Very often these updates include security patches to fix issues that may have been discovered.
  7. Install an anti-virus program – Ensure that you have an anti-virus product on all of your devices.  Anti-virus software is also available for your phones, so take those into consideration as well.  Always keep your anti-virus up to date as well – new threats come out every day.
  8. Enable ad-blocking and ensure your browser is up to date – Google Chrome is updated very often, and your anti-virus software may come with a browser plugin to ensure you are pre-emptively protected from downloading malware.  (Malware is shortened version of malicious software. Any piece of software that was created with the intent of doing something malicious to data, devices or to people is malware)
  9. Be careful online and don’t click on suspicious links – Phishing attacks (where someone pretends to be someone you know and trust and sends you an email with malware) are becoming more and more prevalent.  When in doubt, visit the site in question directly by typing it into your browser.  Also remember that banks will never ask for your password and if it’s important, they will call or send you a letter.and finally, just in case something gets through…
  10. Create a backup of your computer files – Many people now only have copies of family photos digitally stored, and losing those can be heartbreaking.  To ensure you keep your documents and memories safe, make sure you have a backup running at least once a week.  This can be as simple as an external hard drive, but off-site backups (or cloud based backups) are always the best. For more information on cloud backup services, feel free to visit PC Magazine’s reviews.

As a side note, if you have difficulty remembering all of your passwords consider using a password manager (like mSecure) to help.

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