How To Stay One Step Ahead Of Hackers

Some basics...


friendly-wolfUnless you live in a utopian dreamworld, you most likely lock your windows and doors. Perhaps you even have a security alarm system or a video setup, or a big mean dog to scare off intruders! And why do you do this?  Well of course, because you know that some very nasty things can happen if you do not!

Unfortunately, most folks barely give a thought to protecting their computers, phones and other devices that connect to the Internet. A lot of folks adopt the attitude, “Why would anyone want to hack me?”

Well, it is very simple really — MONEY! Wake up people!  Hacking is now big business. Criminals have found that it is much easier to commit their thievery online than to rob a convenience store in broad daylight.

Did you know that in 2016 there were 357 million pieces of new malware globally? Yep, that number is correct. Pretty awe-inspiring isn’t it? Every single day more than 1,200 computers were infected with crypto-ransomware, which is code that locks you out of your data files and demands big money to unlock them.

So, clearly it would behoove you  to take security seriously. Below are several ways that can work to thwart the hackers from causing you lots of grief.

Update Your Software!

windows update logoThere are developers out there in the stratosphere that are working daily and issuing software updates while you are cruising the “interweb,” so they can protect you against new attacks. Your best defense is to install these updates as soon as they are available. You should set your operating system to update automatically. Yes, it is true that automatic updates can sometimes create glitches, but regardless, it is the right thing to do to prevent a lot of grief when you do not. Windows 10 automatically updates by default, as does Apple’s Mac OS. Older PCs running Windows 7 or 8  must be told to auto-update. It’s very simple — you do not need to be a techie to do this:

  • Go into the Control Panel’s System and Security settings | find Windows Update | click the change settings link and select the option to install updates automatically.
  • Install or renew your Security Software.

Another good reason to upgrade to Windows 10 is the stronger built-in security. Security software will protect you against the most common threats, but only if you pay for the regular updates. Some very basic antivirus programs are free. A subscription to a full security suite will usually cost you from $40.00 to $80.00 per year, but it is money well spent.

Back Up Your Data

Backups are not only useful when you knock over your cup of coffee while browsing your e-mail. They are also your first line of defense against ransomware!

Lock Your Screens

Set your computer and your phone to require a password or fingerprint scan when they are idle. In this way, the baddies out there will not be able to access your personal information if your device is lost or stolen. An added bonus is that it will keep nosy coworkers or family from snooping!

Turn On WiFi Security

Your wireless routers not only allow you to share a fast Internet connection with your family, they also add an extra layer of protection between yourwifi-security devices and the Internet.

But in order to do that, you must encrypt the signal by turning on WPA2 protection.  Select a strong password, too. If not, the bad guys could eavesdrop on your Internet traffic.


If you operate a small business or any type of business really, and work from home, logging into your company network, or just spend time during the work day cruising the Web, you should definitely be a step up from the basics.

Set Up Standard Accounts

Both Windows PCs and Macs allow you to set up different kinds of user accounts. Administrator accounts afford you complete control over your computer; Standard accounts will ask for a password when you install software or change your current settings. This means that if your computer becomes infected, using Standard accounts will prevent malware from doing anything that you are not aware of.

Install A Password Manager

lastpassPrograms like 1Password, Dashlane, Roboform, and LastPass can remember all of your passwords and even generate new ones that the hackers cannot easily crack. Install the corresponding mobile app and it will sync your passwords to your phone so you will have access to them wherever you go.

Use Two-Step Verification

Called the Technical Two-Step, this will prevent the bad guys who have grabbed your passwords from accessing your accounts. It sends you a numerical code via text or mobile App, which you must enter along with your password when logging in from a new device. Lots of banks use this method now, as does Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Twitter and others.

Use Long Pass Phrases


Even if you use a password manager as mentioned above, you will still need to memorize its master password as well as those for your system lock-screens and WiFi router.

Select an intuitive but nonsensical phrase or a favorite song lyric, etc., and the longer the better. Add numbers to the beginning or end, or capitalize each word and voila! You now have a virtually unbreakable pass phrase.

If you follow these suggestions, you will be a lot less likely to fall prey to the hackers.

If you think this is a joke, the joke is on you!  These things are real and can cause you untold grief.

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About the Author

Carol Bratt

Carol holds A+, MCP, and MOS computer certifications and is the resident DCT Office expert. She trains the staffs of small law firms in the use of Microsoft Office applications and has authored many books covering Microsoft Office as well as written articles for Infopackets, TechnoLawyer, and Digital Harbor. For more Microsoft Office tips visit Carol's Corner Office or follow Carol on FaceBook and Twitter.

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