10 Useful Tips – Protecting yourself and avoiding Hackers


The following discussion points are more or less things and ways to avoid being taken advantage of while surfing the net. Most of it is simply common-sense ideas and suggestions of which you should be aware or may find worthy enough to remember when you run across something on the internet. These tips are posted here for you to arm yourself against these con-artists who look for the “mark” to exploit for their gain, amusement, or other nefarious reasons. Never, never, never click on any pop-up or email containing a link telling you to change your password.  If you wish to change it, go to the source (online bank, credit card company, etc.) and change it there. It is easy for a hacker to spoof what appears to be a legitimate-looking program designed to deceive.


  1.  Be mindful of emails that appear “too good to be true”, “click here for a $50 coupon”, or ones from known acquaintances that contain nothing more than a link. These are common types of infection sources. As we approach the tax deadline, watch for emails from the IRS informing you of a tax error in your return or request for you to re-enter your personal information. Hackers are season-savvy and try to take advantage of holidays, birthdays, and social events. Be extra careful when you receive messages while on social media apps like Facebook. If an old friend suddenly pops up out of nowhere and seems a little too forward or wants to share his good fortune with you, ask this person something only you and they would know. For instance, “John – what profession did my dad have?” If John worked for my dad, then he should know that – right? If he doesn’t, someone has hacked into John’s account and is trying to con you into something by masquerading as someone you know.
  1. To protect your online privacy, consider using your browser in private mode. This is a common feature most browsers support. It does not record online activity (such as the websites you visit), does not cache website content, and usually wipes any cookies stored on your system. Many browsers also support the ‘reset’ option, which deletes any information stored about your browsing habits, such as stored cookies.
  1. Another FREE clean up utility you can download is called CCLEANER which is a manual program to clean out the temporary browser files and cookies stored on your PC. This free tool has many features to help clean out the junk from your computer, including where the hackers download their stealth-ware.
  1. Always make sure you are using updated anti-virus software to help protect your system against Trojans, viruses, and other forms of malware. I recommend AVG (free to home users) as well as Malwarebytes (also free to home users) as an effective barrier to malwares and viruses.
  1. Remember to patch your PC on Patch Tuesday. This is very important. If you let this slip by for months, your personal and private information is at serious risk. Yes, it’s a war out there on the internet. Don’t let yourself become a victim. A little time spent in prevention saves many dollars of cure.
  1. If your personal computer is a laptop, you need to take some additional steps to protect it. Since by its very nature, it is mobile, don’t leave it unguarded in an unsecured place. Coffee shops and internet cafes are notorious locations for theft. Consider installing a product called PreyProject. This free (3 devices) service actually allows you to report a stolen PC or Smartphone and help the police recover it. You can remotely lock the PC or even wipe the data from it to prevent information falling into the wrong hands.
  1. For a laptop, make sure you use a username and password at a minimum. Even this will only deter a hacker for a few moments. Consider using an encryption program like Microsoft’s “Bit Locker” – an application that may already be on your PC. This program encrypts your entire hard drive, so if it IS stolen, your data cannot be compromised or stolen. The thief may get away with the PC, but your data will be secure. (Important: if you do encrypt your hard drive, make sure you save the password. Once encrypted, only your password will unlock the data.)
  1. In concert with the above advice, if you do encrypt your hard drive, make sure you are backing up your data. No computer tech or computer repairman will be able to recover data from an encrypted hard drive should it fail. I recommend a backup application called “Macrium Reflect” – Free to home users which does a superior job of creating an image of your drive. This can be stored on an external USB drive for later recovery.  Backing up your computer’s information is a choice. If you don’t mind losing everything you’ve worked on the past few years, then starting over can be a refreshing start. However, if the very thought of losing ALL your data, applications, references, history, etc.  gives you heart-burn, then take the time to backup your data. You can do so relatively inexpensively to an external device or to the cloud or someplace you can recover. These things can be automated to run a backup on a schedule.
  1. Keep a list of programs installed on your PC. If your computer falls to an attack and needs to be rebuilt, having a list of your programs will help ease the pain of getting back into operation. (Hint: CCLEANER mentioned above has a great little feature to capture your applications to a simple text file.)
  1. If you happen to have a website for your personal use or business, you may receive an invoice in the mail with an offer to renew your domain name. It looks like a legitimate invoice for some fee, $75 – $100 or more. However, many of you have already contracted with a hosting company, such as GoDaddy, Fatcow, etc. that provide your domain hosting as part of their hosting package. The domain owner for all domains is available on the Internet (unless you pay for the right of privacy and have this information blocked). It provides the name and address of the owner. This is where the new phishing scam was born. The perpetrators send an invoice directly to the owner in hopes they will pay the money for their domain (again). Be wary of this invoice and check with your hosting provider before you pay this fee. While what they do is not criminal by itself, tricking you into paying them for something you already have is their game.
Posted in Safe Computing Tips.

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