Desktops & Laptops

Use Antivirus & Antispyware Software

Antivirus software is a program designed to detect and remove viruses and other kinds of malicious software from your computer or laptop. Malicious software (malware) is code that can harm your device, and the data on them. Once malware is installed, it can steal your data, encrypt it so you cannot access, or even erase it completely. For this reason, it is important to always use antivirus software.

Spyware is harmful software installed without your knowledge or consent. The software monitors your online activity and collects personal information. Keyloggers (type of spyware) records everything you key in—including your passwords and financial information. Hackers use this information to do damage or possibly steal your identity.

To avoid these issues, only download software from sites you know and trust. Windows 10 and up includes includes antivirus protection with Windows Security. Some antivirus software includes antispyware protection. Check your antivirus software documentation for instructions on how to activate the spyware protection features. Or, buy separate antispyware software programs.

Whatever you decide to use, keep your software updated, and scan your entire device on a regular basis.

Enable a Firewall

Firewalls block hackers, viruses, and other harmful software from entering and using your computer.

Hackers search the internet the way some telemarketers automatically dial random phone numbers. They send out pings (calls) to thousands of computers and wait for responses. Firewalls prevent your computer from responding to these random calls and block communications to/from sources you do not permit.

Most computers have a built-in firewall but the default setup is the 'off' mode. Be sure to turn on your firewall. Typically, you can check the status by accessing the Control Panel (or System Preferences for iOS users) and security settings. To ensure proper setup, and regular updates, check your online Help for specific instructions.

Update Software

Software updates should not be ignored as they usually include critical security patches to protect your device against the latest criminal attacks. These updates can also improve your device's functionality by increasing speed and providing new features.

Microsoft, Apple, and Google release new versions of their operating systems (OS) every one to two months. Step away from the ‘remind me later’ button and update your software. Or, turn on automatic updates to keep your system updated to the latest version.

Use Good Password Practices

Remember to create strong passwords. See Protect Your Identity, Top 5.

Prevent Malware

Malware (malicious software) remains one of the most prevalent cybersecurity threats. It is a blanket term for any kind of software created to cause harm. It is categorized by how it spreads/what it does. Four common types include: Trojan, Virus, Spyware, or Ransomware. Hackers create it to make money, steal data, spy, blackmail, or even prank. It is a serious crime.

The most common way to spread malware is through email (SPAM/phishing). Remember to: STOP, LOOK and THINK, before you click. See Phishing.

Am I infected? Signs you may have malware:

  • Too many ads and redirects
  • Computer frequently crashes
  • Generally slow performance
  • New web browser toolbars
  • Lose access to your files, or they become encrypted
  • Malware infection warning, or you are asked to pay for malware removal

Keep Your Device Secure

Password protect your computer

Make sure a password is required to login to your device.

Lock it down

When you walk away, be sure to lock your screen. Set the display/power option to put the device to sleep when it is idle for a period of time. For highly sensitive information, consider a very short idle period (such as 1 minute).

Keep your valuable with you at all times

Keep your device close, within reach. Never leave your laptop unattended - this includes your backpack (with the laptop inside). If you are not using it, keep it out of sight - do not leave your device on the seat of your car.

When traveling, keep your device with you. Meal times are optimum times for thieves to check hotel rooms for unattended laptops. Be extra careful if attending a conference or trade show. These venues offer thieves a wider selection of devices, likely to contain sensitive information.

Be aware of your surroundings

Avoid using your device in public areas. If you must, pay attention to people around you. Take precautions to shield yourself from anyone looking over your shoulder. Consider carrying a non-traditional bag for your laptop.

Consider an alarm lock

For physical security, use an alarm lock or physical cable to secure your laptops, computer, or external drives to a piece of furniture.

Backup your files

To avoid losing all of the information, if your device is stolen, make backups of important information. Store the backups in a separate location. Not only will you still be able to access the information, you will be able to identify and report the exact information at risk.

Be sure your laptop is identifiable

Write down the make, model, and serial number, and take a photo, for insurance purposes - in case your device is stolen. 

Securely Dispose of Old Device

Don't throw your old device in the trash. Not only is it bad for the environment, it also contains old data and personal information.

Erase your hard drive before disposing of the device. Deleting files in your file manager prevents you from seeing them, even though the data remains on your hard drive. You must wipe it from your device.

  • Perform a factory reset on your device (where applicable).
  • Remove any memory cards or hard drives.
  • Consider using a disk cleaning software for your computer.

Once you have wiped your old device, take it to an e-waste recycling location to security dispose. Texas Recycles Computer Programs lists FREE computer recycling, for specific computer brands.