When I setup a new computer, I go through a process of downloading and installing certain programs to make the system more secure when I surf the Internet. These programs won’t make your computer into a Fort Knox against viruses, but they will definitely raise your defenses higher than most people. In short, I make sure my operating system is updated, install five programs, and then make a few changes to my browser.
- Update your operating system. If you have Windows XP or Windows Vista, you need to upgrade. Not just because your computer is probably ancient, but because those versions of Windows are not updated and not secure. Windows 7, 8, and 10 are still being updated. Windows 10 comes preset to automatically update. If you have one of the older systems, click the start menu and run Windows Update.
- Install antivirus. Most new computers come with a free trial of Norton, Symantec, or McAfee antivirus. I uninstall this stuff immediately. Microsoft Windows 10 comes with Windows Defender. It’s free and works well. If you have an older system or want to install a 3rd party antivirus, download the free versions of Avast Antivirus. The website is tricky and they try to get you to pay for the premium version. Just take care to only click on the link that leads to the free download. Before you can install another antivirus, you must uninstall Norton, Symantec, or whatever other trial software you have. (www.avast.com, https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/14210/security-essentials-download)
- Install antispyware. Antivirus prevents viruses, but it doesn’t stop some malware/spyware that companies install to feed you ads, collect marketing information about you, or worse. Download and install Malwarebytes. This is different than antivirus software, so it will coexist with Windows Defender or Avast. Mawarebytes gives you a short trial of their premium version, then you’ll have to manually run the software every once in a while to ensure that spyware is removed from your system. If you want to continuously guard against spyware, you can pay $60. (www.malwarebytes.com)
- Install anti-ransomware. Ransomware is the new thing in malware. This nasty software sneaks on your computer via a malicious advertisement or bad link and then silently encrypts all your data. Once locked away in a digital locker, your computer screen flashes a screen demanding payment in order to obtain the code to unlock your data. To configure your computer to be more resistant to ransomware, install one of these free ransomware prevention programs. The first one to consider is CryptoPrevent from Foolish IT. CryptoPrevent was one of the very first ransomware prevention utilities and its creator continues to update it. Another one to consider is Ransomfree. It is newer, but was recently featured on Lifehacker. (www.foolishit.com, ransomfree.cybereason.com)
- Install EMET. The Enhanced Mitigation Experience Tool is a small Microsoft program that quietly runs on your Windows machine to harden it from attacks. If you’re running anything older than Windows 10, you definitely need it. Try https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=50766 or just use your favorite search engine to look for “Microsoft EMET.”
- Secure your browser. Viruses and baddies are going to get to you through your browser or email. Securing your browser with a few modifications will help you out…big time.
Browser Securing Steps:
- Download and install Google Chrome. Google Chrome runs pretty secure out of the box. It is considered more secure than Firefox and Internet Explorer, but on equal footing with Microsoft Edge. If you are running Windows 8 or earlier, you definitely need to install Chrome. Windows 10 comes with the secure Microsoft Edge browser, but I suggest Chrome because it has a lot of ad blockers that are super easy to install.
- Run Chrome and click YES to make it default. Making Chrome default will help ensure that you always run it.
- Install uBlock Origin to block ads. Ads are increasingly becoming a way for malware to spread these days. Go to google.com/webstore and search for ublock origin. You will see uBlock, but you want uBlock Origin. Click install. Your browser should now be blocking most ads.
- Turn off save passwords and autofill forms. Saving passwords anywhere but in an encrypted file is always a bad idea. Don’t let Chrome save your passwords. Here are Google’s instructions for turning off this “feature”: