When traveling or living or traveling overseas, your computer is often more vulnerable to attack by hackers and malicious software. Some foreign governments encourage computer hacking, which means it is important to be vigilant in protecting your computer and its data. While nothing can make your computer impenetrable, by following these guidelines, you can make your computer safer from attack and your data more secure.
Practice Good Computer Hygiene
- Use a strong password. If your password is 12345 you are just asking to be hacked! A strong password should include letters, numbers, and special characters such as @, # or %. It is wise not to use the same password everywhere, but to use a different password for each account that you need to login into.
- Keep Security software updated. It is vital that you use anti-virus and anti-malware software and that you keep it updated. New viruses and malware are being developed every day, and unless you security software is kept up to date, it soon becomes vulnerable.
- Back up your data. At least once a week, but every day is best. You can back up to the cloud, onto a flash drive, or onto an external disk. Malware that corrupts or locks your data is common, and a back-up will mean that you will continue to be able to access the data.
- Use a VPN. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) provides an additional layer of security and protects your privacy when using the internet. Usually a VPN will charge a small yearly fee for the service. I use “Private Internet Access” VPN, but there are many, many excellent VPNs that are reasonably priced.
- Install “HTTPS Everywhere” or similar program. HTTPS Everywhere is a free Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.
- Be very careful on public WiFi. It is great to have free WiFi in airports, coffee shops and restaurants. Using a VPN and HTTPS will make free WiFi more secure, but there are still dangers. You should never use a credit card on free WiFi and never log into your financial institutions.
- Never click a link in an email that is not clearly from a well-known friend or colleague. Clicking a link may lead you to a website that is set up to gain access to your personal data.
- Never open an email attachment you were not expecting. An email attachment may contain malware that can take over your computer and potentially cause you to lose all your data. Be very careful when opening email attachments, even from friends.
- Finally, It is also wise to keep your computer physically secure. Keep your computer in a locked drawer when are not using it, and never leave it unattended in a public space. Stealing a computer is an easy way to gain access to the data on the computer.