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​The Ultimate Guide on How to protect your PC from computer invaders

16/01/2020
by Cathy Houghton

The Ultimate Guide on How to protect your PC from computer invaders

How to protect your PC from invaders

he internet and being online is one of, if not THE, ultimate resource for everyone in today’s modern and dare we say it, “digital world.”

We use it for everything! To communicate with others, to carry out research, to work, to shop, to play etc, - when it comes to the internet the list could go on and on.

It’s convenient; it’s there at the tip of our fingers, and now with wi-fi hotspots, we’re never really without a connection!

However, we’re also now much more vulnerable to identity theft as well as invasion of privacy.

We leave digital footprints everywhere and putting your data in the wrong place, or the wrong hands can prove extremely costly, to you.

This guide highlights the cyber crimes you need to be aware of, the common challenges that we find ourselves facing daily, and how we can overcome these challenges by making some simple adjustments to how we view and use the internet and its different platforms.

Table of Contents

Protect your PC - You are not safe online

Protect your PC - Attack of the invaders

Protect your PC - Keep your computer safe

Protect your PC - Firewalls

Protect your PC - Anti Virus Software

Protect your PC - Email Security Software

Protect your PC - Advanced internet protection technique

1. You are not safe online!

You are not safe online

Computer invaders aren’t going away; they’re simply changing focus and adapting their malicious developments to target and try to break even the toughest of anti-virus and firewalls!

1a) Common threats

Some of the most dominant and well-known cyber threats currently out there include:

Ransomware and Malware – both used as a tool to carry our targeted threats, infecting computer systems as they go, and costing customers highly.

Data Breaches – still one of the most prominent threats of today – stealing personal information or company-wide information poses a serious threat for fraud and identity theft.

With business data most commonly found to be used for blackmail purposes or indeed to sell on for money.

Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDoS) – these threats are driven not just by financial gain but also used to voice ideological, political or just malicious judgement and opinion.

Payment card fraud – be aware of fake companies who introduce themselves at point of sales online to access and abuse certain transactions, profiting from your compromised information.

Crypto jacking – linked with cryptocurrency, crypto jacking attacks aim to exploit a computer users’ bandwidth and processing power to mine for cryptocurrency. Such attacks can cripple a victim’s system by manipulating their processing power.

Phishing emails – the most common form of threats and attacks due to their realism. Phishing emails set out to obtain personal data, hijack accounts, steal identities, carry out malicious activity from your PC and more!

SPAM – spam is often used to gain access to very targeted networks.

1b) Their effects on a PC

The effects all of these threats have on your PC or computer network can be fatal, fatal for the computer.

Depending on the security you have in place, as well as the type of virus/malware, and the expertise of your IT team, will all depend on whether the virus and hack can be contained and removed completely before any further malicious activity is carried out.

Making operating systems run much slower than they should or stop working completely is just one of the effects these cyber crimes can have on a PC system.

That and all of your files can become encrypted and used to access personal or sensitive information, or worse your computer may also be used to carry out the malicious activity without you even knowing it is happening!

Your computer might also crash regularly, continuously show pop up error messages, and create problems when trying to connect to secure networks.

This last point is of high importance for remote workers, using their personal PC’s at home, which might be infected or hacked in some way, to go then on to log in to their workplace’s private network server, can open up more doors for the computer invaders to access!

1c) Staying safe

There are several ways to increase your security online. These include:

Reviewing your online activities – what sites are you shopping on? What content are you posting and where are you posting this? How safe are the sites you are visiting?

Install the latest anti-virus software and firewalls. With free and paid for protection now available, there is no excuse not to protect your PC. (SonicWall online is a great place to help you get started).

Make sure to use a personal private network. Not only will this compliment your anti-virus software by further protecting your privacy online, but it will also help to safeguard passwords, hide IP addresses, and allow you to remain anonymous online.

Be aware of the information you share on social media. Especially Facebook, whose business model is designed on using your personal information for advertising and marketing purposes.

Only use secure shopping sites

Use strong passwords (you will read this point a lot throughout this guide)

Delete or clear your tracking cookies. Deleting your online activity means it’s harder to follow you and collect personal information about you.

2. Attack of the invaders

Atttack of the invaders

With global cybercrime damages predicted to reach $6 billion in costs (annually) by 2021, the online threat is not only real, but it is also continually evolving.

2a) Cybercrime at its worst - stats, history, and challenges to overcome

The second most investigated crime accounting for 50% of crimes in the UK is….Cybercrime.

Hackers are invading PCs on average every 39 seconds!

The number of ransomware families has increased from 30 in 2015 to 98 in 2016 with the demand also increasing from $294 in 2015 to £1,077 in 2016.

Ransomware families increase

Records lost to hacking in 2017 stood at an average of 780,000 per day.

2015/16 saw identity takeover become the fastest growing type of fraud in Australia and New Zealand.

In the past year, nearly 200 million people across 21 different countries experienced some form of cybercrime!

The cost of online crime and activity is real:

  • The cost of data breaches annually now stands at a staggering $2.1 trillion
  • In 2017, the total revenue coaxed out of people and businesses from cybercriminals worldwide stood at $1.5 trillion!
  • $3.8 million, is the cost of data breaches to businesses (on average)
  • $600 billion – the global cost of cybercrime in 2017

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Challenges come in many shapes and sizes…

Take, for example, the recent hacking of Facebook user accounts. Affecting nearly 50 million users worldwide, over 14 million people had their location and search history exposed for all to see!

On this occasion users of the site did nothing wrong and nor was there anything they could do to stop or pre-empt this from happening (besides not having a Facebook account at all), because the hackers behind the security breach took advantage of a Facebook privacy feature, leveraging it to steal digital “tokens”, which would provide them with full access to user’s accounts.

Now, as one of the largest breaches in Facebook's history, engineers for the firm got to work to fix the hack and advised a further 40 million additional users to log out of their accounts as a precaution. Logging out and logging back in, allowed Facebook to reset users’ access tokens, protecting their accounts.

Further investigations are still ongoing to the extent of how these “bugs” can be rectified.

This type of breach is not uncommon as we look further into cybercrime and in particular. WikiLeaks, who released over 8,000 CIA documents (of course classified) in 2017 and the same year, a team of hackers also released a series of sensitive emails from French Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.

Mobile platforms are acting as the fastest growing target areas for hackers, with 60% of online fraud carried out through mobile platforms and 80% of mobile fraud carried out through mobile apps.

These attacks are not only real, but they’re big!

3. Keep your computer safe

Keep your computer safe

With the severity of online threats at an all-time high, we’ve compiled a list of top tips on how to protect you and your PC from computer invaders.

Without needing to install a thing:

  • Avoid sites which you don’t trust or don’t look 100% genuine
  • Don’t open emails from unknown/not trusted senders
  • Don’t open attachments from just anyone!
  • Take your passwords more seriously! With more than 60% of people using the same password across multiple sites, make sure you use longer passwords, with a combination of characters, numbers, and upper and lower case, etc. Avoid obvious ones such as children’s names or birthdays!
  • Check your security settings in your browser. Reviewing and setting these at the level that you need and want, you can tell websites not to track your movements and location, and you can block pop-ups and malicious irrelevant ads, etc.
  • Network security – disabling autorun on Windows, for example, can stop up to 50% of malware threats!
  • Wi-Fi security at home – make sure to change your routers default settings by enabling a non-default password and network name.
  • Wi-Fi security, public – disable sharing and make sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), conceal your IP address and secure your data by encrypting your internet traffic.

The need for software installation:

  • Install the right firewalls and anti-virus software depending on your needs and configuration settings required. Also, make sure to keep your firewall turned on!
  • Keep your windows operating system up to date, checking for the latest security updates and patches available (make sure windows automatic update is switched on too).
  • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Providing real-time protection, helping to identify and block any unwanted mail and threats.
  • Backup your folders regularly, look to invest in cloud software or external hard drives, etc. making sure you have a backup plan if the worst wereto happen.

4. Firewalls

Firewalls

Most firewalls, over the years, have been developed in response to a security threat received. With action then taken to develop and produce more advanced firewall technology to stop the threat from happening again.

4a) How they work

When we think of firewalls, we need to think of them as invisible walls that monitor everything which passes through them, in both directions, making the wall solid if a threat is found, not allowing it to pass through.

A firewall will ultimately stop hackers from accessing your computer via Wi-Fi connections and the internet and can help in two ways:

  1. It can allow traffic to pass through, except for data that meets a predetermined set of criteria.
  2. It can stop all traffic unless it meets a predetermined set of criteria.

Firewalls are a piece of security software that monitors “traffic” to and from your PC, acting as the first line of defence when it comes to protecting your data and any sensitive information.

4b) Why you need them

It is this misuse of confidential information and stealing of personal data which is why we need firewalls.

For example, hackers use Trojan viruses and key logging software to access computers and data. Things like passwords, bank details can all be taken and used without you realising for days (if not longer), racking up huge bills in your name as they go.

They can also use your computer against you, taking complete control without you knowing or it affecting the system in any way, and using it to run illicit activities online.

Firewalls and upgraded firewalls like SonicWall firewalls, help to stop this from happening, placing a barrier between you and the hackers.

4c) Best Practice

Firewall best practice when it comes to business is to install complex firewall software to protect the most extensive networks, having a team in place to be able to manage such security measures.

Helping to:

  • Prevent staff from sending certain types of emails or transmitting sensitive information
  • Stop employees accessing certain sites
  • Prevent outside computers accessing computers inside the network
  • Provide a variety of configurations

When it comes to firewalls for personal use, we recommend to, keep it simple. The primary goal is to protect your computer and private network from malicious activity.

5. Anti-virus software

Anti Virus

Anti-virus software, in its purest form, protects against different types of malware, protecting your PC and your personal information.

5a) How they work

Good anti-virus software helps to block ransomware and everyday threats by finding them on your PC and before they reach you directly, pulling them away, locking them in a secure container where they can’t infect your computer!

Anti-virus software is similar to anti-spy software in that it provides real-time protection (if you make sure to keep it updated regularly). Scanning all incoming information and blocking any unwanted information or threats which it detects.

5b) Why you need them

Malware and malicious software attacking our PC are one of the biggest online threats. A virus of any sort can be transmitted via email and over the internet, quickly causing lots of damage to your PC and files held on your system.

Malware in this sense also includes Trojan Horse programmes and spyware; all used to acquire your personal information for identity theft and fraud.

The right antivirus software will help to prevent malware and spyware from getting onto your computer and invading your privacy, but it is important to set up and use sophisticated and secure passwords. Using long passwords including a combination of numbers, special characters, and upper- and lower-case letters is most recommended.

5c) Differences between firewalls and anti-virus software

Both developed to offer you and your PC increased security, the key differences between anti-virus software and firewalls are:

  • Anti-virus can only be implemented in software, whereas a firewall can be both hardware and software.
  • Anti-virus performs continuous scans on the PC in question, detecting, identifying and removing any threats found, whereas firewalls monitor and filter incoming and outgoing information.
  • Anti-virus software can deal with external and internal attacks, while firewalls can only deal with external.
  • You can apply set rules to firewalls for monitoring and securing PC’s and networks; this isn’t possible with an anti-virus which will run regular checks scanning for malicious files or programmes.
  • A firewall can prevent untrusted and unauthorised applications from gaining access to your computer and networks, but unlike antivirus, it does not perform detection, identification, and removal.

6. Email Security Software

Email Security Software

When it comes to protecting your PC and computer systems, you need to make sure to invest in the right security software for you and your PC. However, you also need to bear in mind the need to defend yourself against all known and emerging viruses and hacks.

6a) Integrated email security software

Attacks are becoming increasingly innovative and varied, and because of this, integrated email protection software should be opted for rather than managing a collection of different software installations.

Making life easier an integrated platform means you can manage, control and contain everything through one application. You can monitor all incoming and outgoing activity quickly and efficiently and you can have a bird’s eye view of the security of your PC.

Managing multiple applications is not only a minefield but because they’re all designed to carry out different tasks and not “talk” to each other, it can make for complicated and slow security processes.

When considering an integrated email security package, look for one that can protect against malware as well as spam, phishing, potential data leaks and more!

The SonicWall email security and sensitive data detection solution can help. Deployed as a virtual appliance or software, this security system offers you flexibility and complete peace of mind that your PC and operating systems are protected.

7. Advanced internet protection technique

Advanced Internet Protection Technique

In this final chapter, we want to let you in on some of our tips and unique techniques that we’ve picked up and implemented over the years to increase PC security.

Tips that we’ve never shared before.

7a) Keep things up to date!

Now before you think, you’ve heard all of this before, and there is nothing left to say on the matter, give us a second!

Yes, when we say “keep things updated”, we’re talking about things such as updating and keeping the latest version of Microsoft - and yes, we know not everyone likes it, but it has upped the level of security it now offers to operating systems, so will help to add another layer of security to your PC.

But, what we also mean is that it’s also important to keep the more uncommon elements like your routers and Java up to date too.

Java is something that most of us don’t really know to update in the first instance, let alone do this regularly, and it is a huge target when it comes to computer invaders, so it’s important to know more.

In your start menu, search for Java, clicking and bringing up the Java Control Panel. Any updates and new updates will then be available by the click of a button in the bottom right-hand corner of the panel.

Within this section, we’d also recommend clicking on the security tab at the top and disabling, the “Enable Java” box.

Why?

Because this is notorious for vulnerabilities and opens up more opportunities and threats than adding additional security.

When it comes to routers, keep these up to date by changing passwords asap, and follow this up with disabling WPS, or Wi-Fi Protected Setup.

Why?

Because if we’re 100%, honest WPS is really shaky on the security front!

7b) Change your controls

Most computers and PCs will automatically be set up with you as the administrator with admin privileges and the ability to access everything without question.

Herein lies the problem.

In your control panel make sure to switch your privileges from admin to standard.

Why?

Because if a virus or piece of malware does accidentally find its way onto your PC, being set up as admin will automatically give the invader the same privileges, and trust us, this is something you definitely don’t want.

7c) Keep some things to yourself!

In an era where social media rules, (an estimated 2.77 billion people from around the world are now considered as social media “users”) we tend to give too much information away about ourselves, our family, and our lives in general.

Stop.

Let’s keep some things under wraps, as not placing yourself in a vulnerable position will only strengthen your security position when it comes to identity theft and online fraud!

7d) Quickfire tips

Make sure your antivirus software offers real-time protection

Be aware that even the most trusted of websites can be compromised

Back up everything. Using both local and online backup systems, and

Sign out of things before closing everything down!

Conclusion

Computer invaders are not going away but being armed with the right tools and information can keep you and your PC protected.

If you enjoyed reading this guide, please feel free to share and comment below with any questions or insight you might have when it comes to computer invaders, we’d love to hear from you.