Online Safety and Security- The Basics
I receive a lot of enquiries regarding modern Windows PCs, Macs and third party security software. Safe computer and internet use starts with user habits- NOTHING will stop you clicking on the wrong thing! Both Microsoft Windows 10 and Apple MacOS have a range of BUILT IN protections that require no ongoing subscriptions. Generally, these are more secure than anything offered by a third party. Read on for more information!
The first step for online security is safe technology habits. No software, be it built in or a third-part addition, can stop you from clicking on the wrong thing. Safe computer and browsing habits start with the user.
- Use different, strong passwords for all online accounts. Consider using a password manager for creation and storage of strong, unique passwords.
- Keep your system UP TO DATE. Updates are your friend in security! The bulk of recent security flaws publicised in the media are the sorts of flaws that operating system updates patch, and are NOT viruses in the traditional sense.
- Never open email attachments unless you’re specifically expecting it from a known source. Lately, the bulk of malicious emails including compromised attachments come from senders PRETENDING TO BE SOMEONE YOU KNOW.
- Don’t fall for phone scams. Microsoft, Telstra, Apple and the ATO/IRS WILL NOT call you and ask for payment via iTunes credit. Simply hang up. These callers originate from overseas, and unfortunately, the Do Not Call Registers have little impact on this type of call.
- Stay away from sites offering free content that should be paid for, including free software, sport and TV shows. These sites generally are loaded with malicious, ad-loaded and tracking software. Copyright infringement comes with lots of danger.
- Don’t fall for invasive, pop-up advertisements stating that your PC is infected, and forcing you to call a phone number and allow a hacker to remote access your system. These are a scam, similar to the phone calls.
- Check the applications installed on your computer. Uninstall any expired trial software, or any older software you don’t use anymore. The less software installed, the less holes in the system, and the more secure you inherently are.
Windows 10- Inbuilt Security
Windows 10 includes a free, comprehensive security suite built right into the operating system. Windows Defender Security Centre includes an antivirus solution, firewall, ransomware protection, cloud protection and family protection options. It’s on right from the moment Windows is installed, and offers real time protection, automatic updating and periodic scans.
Unfortunately, most PCs bought from a store offer a third-party trial security suite [think Norton McAfee or TrendMicro] and generally expire after 30 days. The FIRST THING you should do upon purchase of a PC, is UNINSTALL these trial offers. Doing so will reinstate the Windows Defender Security Suite.
The growing issue with third party security options, is the DEPTH into system files that these programs penetrate. Poorly coded security suites can offer PATHWAYS into the very system they are pretending to protect. Third party updates also can interfere with internet connections and Windows Updates, and most troubleshooting options will point the cause of issues to thirds party security software.
Third party security software also tends to bundle system cleaners, browser helpers and other unnecessary software. These types of software tend to be slowly updated, and are known to cause more issues than they solve. Uninstalling third party tools, applying regular updates and being aware of what you’re clicking on are key to staying safe.
Apple MacOS- Inbuilt Security
MacBooks and iMacs, coming directly from Apple, tend to avoid pre-installed trial software. This is actually a big plus for the home user. However, the security of these systems tends to be understated, and wrongly linked to the smaller number of them around, and hence the smaller attention given to them by hackers.
Apple offers a multi-factor, inbuilt approach. All of the key elements work together to protect your data and your device, and are present from the moment your Mac turns on. The newest Macs offer a secure, separate T2 chip, protecting the boot sequence, encryption and fingerprint reader data. Automatic system updates and disk encryption via FileVault protect your data from being copied. Run-time protections, GateKeeper and sandboxing keep malicious code far away from system files, and Find My Mac means that your device is able to be located and wiped of lost or stolen.
Unfortunately, third party security suites tend to do more harm than good in the newest versions of MacOS. The performance impact tends to be severe due to the interaction of the third party with the built in protections. In a similar way to Windows, the depth of penetration into system files of poorly coded security suites may offer more risk to the system that they perpetrate to protect.
Safe technology use starts with safe habits- nothing will stop you from clicking on the wrong thing. Stick to the inbuilt protections, be aware of the sites you visit and the emails you open, and keep the money in your pocket!
[Image credit- microsoft.com and apple.com]
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