Tech Advisor

5 easy tasks that supercharg­e your security

Protect your PC and your online accounts with these easy, must-do tasks.

- BRAD CHACOS reports

Protecting your personal data isn’t just smart these days – it’s a necessity. As the world grows more and more connected, your private informatio­n becomes more and more valuable. Whether it’s using leaked info from website breaches to hack into your other accounts or holding your personal computer ransom for money, malicious attackers won’t hesitate to ruin your day if it puts profits in their pockets.

All is not lost, though. Following some basic security principles can help protect you from most of the attacks

you’ll find on the World Wild Web. Better yet, these five easy security tasks should take only a short while to get set up. Do them now and sleep easier at night.

1. USE A PASSWORD MANAGER

On of the biggest security risks these days is password reuse. Major websites and services report massive data breaches on a shockingly regular basis. If you’re using the same email and password for multiple accounts, and any of those accounts leak, attackers can hack into your other ones using the informatio­n.

Using strong, unique passwords for every account you own protects against that – but memorizing a different random password for every website you create an account for is next to impossible. That’s where password managers come in. These tools can create strong randomized passwords for you, store the informatio­n, and automatica­lly fill in login fields on websites and software alike. Browsers are starting to offer basic password management tools too. They work in a pinch but aren’t good enough overall. Investing in a proper password manager is well worth it (especially because many services offer a free tier).

2. ENABLE TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICA­TION

Most major services now offer a twofactor authentica­tion feature, especially if they handle more sensitive personal data. Turn it on whenever you can. If a hacker does somehow manage to gain access to your login informatio­n, 2FA can still save your bacon.

Two-factor authentica­tion requires you to confirm your account two ways before you’re able to log in: with something you know, and something

you have. The ‘something you know’ is your username and password. The ‘something you have’ comes courtesy of an authorized tool you have in your possession. Usually, 2FA requires you to input a code that’s either sent to you via text message or email when you try to log in on a device for the first time, or to grab a code from a supported 2FA app, or connect a security device devoted to account authentica­tion. The exact method varies by service, and many offer several 2FA options. Without that code, hackers can’t break into your account even if they have your login informatio­n.

3. STAY SAFE WITH SECURITY SOFTWARE

Now that your online accounts are locked down, it’s time to turn our attention to security for your personal computer. You don’t want malware secretly siphoning off your informatio­n while you’re banking or browsing your medical history, after all, while ransomware can lock you out of your computer completely until you pay a bounty.

That’s where security software comes in. Yes, you still want to run antivirus and a firewall even in 2021. Good news, though: the Microsoft firewall that ships with Windows 10 gets the job done just fine these days, while the Windows Security tools that come bundled with the operating system (including antivirus) now offer surprising­ly good protection. Better yet, they’re enabled by default in Windows 10 if you aren’t running a third-party alternativ­e.

You still may want to run paidfor security software, as those suites offer much more than mere antivirus protection these days – you’ll also receive tools that protect against malicious ads, more advanced firewalls, family protection for several devices, VPN access, and more.

4. DON’T USE A WINDOWS ADMIN ACCOUNT

Here’s one of the biggest under-theradar security pro tips around: Don’t use a Windows administra­tor account day-to-day. Instead, use a secondary standard account.

A lot of malware tries to sneak itself on your system. Only administra­tor accounts can install software in Windows. If you’re using a standard account, you won’t be able to allow a rogue program onto you PC accidental­ly (at least not easily). For the best security, set up your computer with all the software you need using an admin account, but then use a secondary standard account to go about your business in general life. It’s very easy to switch over to your administra­tor account quickly when you

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 ??  ?? The FIDO Alliance’s U2F open standard lets compatible USB key drives and other small devices simplify two-factor authentica­tion.
The FIDO Alliance’s U2F open standard lets compatible USB key drives and other small devices simplify two-factor authentica­tion.

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