While PC-makers have taken pains to produce more secure operating systems and machines than ever before, true security starts with you. As the user, you are the most likely cause of corruption on a PC, so you are ultimately responsible for keeping your data and devices safe. To start, you should work to educate yourself on existing threats to your PC — and you should continue this education for as long as you continue to use computers. Still, even with all your knowledge and skill, you need the help of security software to fully protect yourself from the dangers of the digital world. Here are the fundamental aspects of PC security that you need on your computer today:
It is so important to create not just strong passwords but multiple, varied passwords to protect your information. Unfortunately, people aren’t designed to remember many random jumbles of characters, so when it comes to passwords, you are likely either to forget most of your codes or to use the same or similar keys for all your accounts.
Therefore, you need a password management tool. This software generates complex codes or stores the passwords you generate in an encrypted database, so you don’t have to expend energy trying to recall which key goes where. Some managers also allow multi-factor authentication, which adds security to your password protection by authenticating your identity first, either through a security question or with a key token. You can find some of the best password management tools online.
Most PCs come with firewalls in their firmware, but not all firewalls are created equal. To be fully functional, a firewall should provide gateway defense, hide and protect internal addresses, and report threats while segregating activity between your trusted network, the internet, and the middle ground. The best firewalls include several layers, including:
- The packet layer, which analyzes network traffic
- The circuit layer, which validates the contents of packets
- The application layer, which validates data at the application level
More complex firewalls might also include a proxy server, which intercepts all messages entering or leaving the network. Comprehensive PC protection software will include advanced firewall tech that adapts to guard against emerging threats.
While passwords and firewalls provide necessary defense, they do little to detect the hordes of malware trying to make it onto your PC. Malware moves around the web with ease; while the long-distributed information about fishy links and unknown attachments still holds true, there are hundreds of other vectors for malware, many of which don’t even require you to make a mistake. Thus, your PC needs an anti-virus program to perform regular scans of your data, quarantine corrupt files, and keep you utterly and completely safe.
Anti-virus is a well-known security necessity, so there are dozens of anti-virus products for PC. Unfortunately, not all of them are inherently reliable. First and foremost, your anti-virus software should come from a reliable vendor, like Trend Micro, McAfee, Symantec, or Kaspersky. Then, you should look for a program that offers real-time file scanning, link scanning and automatic updates. Finally, you should find a product that fits within your budget, so you don’t have to decide between PC protection and paying your mortgage — because both are critical.
In the early days of PCs, users had little to fear from networks and every reason to be concerned about data drives like floppy discs and CDs. These days, it’s the opposite: Almost all threats to your computer come from its connection to other computers, especially the internet. Thus, internet-specific security programs are mandatory for extra protection from serious risks.
There are a few different features contained in internet security suites that you likely won’t find in other PC security software packages. For example, many suites scan webpages for authenticity and safety before you visit them, so you can be certain that links, videos, and text from certain sites are free from malware. Additionally, internet security software immediately scans downloads for corrupt code, identifies phishing attempts in emails, and periodically scans your cloud for malware. Some internet security programs also offer parental controls, so you can protect your little ones when they log on.
Last but not least, you need an automatic backup program on your PC. In the modern days of malware, with ransomware rapidly becoming some of the most common viruses on the web, you need to be certain that you have a recent copy of your computer saved in an impossible-to-reach place. Backup software typically encrypts and saves copies of your hard drive to a secure cloud, where malware cannot touch it. Thus, even if all your other security software fail, you can continue using your PC like nothing happened.