Tips to protect your data, security, and privacy from a hands-on expert

This post was authored by one of the most active helpers on the Malwarebytes forums who wishes to remain anonymous.

Back in the early days of personal computing, perhaps one of the only real concerns was data loss from a drive failure. That risk still exists, but we all face many other threats today too.

There are rootkits, Trojans, worms, viruses, ransomware, phishing, identity theft, and social engineering to worry about. And that’s not a comprehensive list.

So how can you avoid becoming victim?

Security tips

Practice good security measures such as slowing down and thinking before clicking on things. Use a strong and unique password for all accounts and sites. A long passphrase that cannot be found in a dictionary is one recommendation for a strong password; the use of a Password Manager is highly recommended. When possible, you should use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to help protect your accounts. Keep your operating system and installed software up to date. Check with both your Operating System vendor, Device vendor, and Software vendor frequently for security updates.

Pay close attention to the license agreements and installation screens when installing anything. If an installation screen offers you Custom or Advanced installation options, it is a good idea to select these as they will typically disclose what other third party software will also be installed. Take great care in every stage of the process and every offer screen, and make sure you know what it is you’re agreeing to before you click “Next.”

Avoid using Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing programs if possible. Likewise, avoid keygens, cracks, and other pirated software that can often compromise your data, privacy, or both.

Today, content blockers have become essential to help reduce ads, Trojans, phishing, and other undesirable content that an antivirus product alone may not cover. In addition, disabling browser push technology is recommended as it has become a source of abuse. Hover your mouse over website links and review where they actually go when possible, don’t just click on them. Consider using DuckDuckGo or StartPage as a home page and search provider in your browser to help improve your security and privacy.

Whether it’s your email, phone, messenger, or other applications, always be alert and on guard for someone trying to trick you into clicking on links or replying to a message. If someone is not on your address or contacts list, all the more reason to be suspicious. Never open attachments that come in unexpectedly in email, no matter how enticing. Even if from friends or family, always be cautious. If possible, save the attachment first, and have a site such as VirusTotal scan and confirm the attachment is not a threat before opening it.

Make sure you’re backing up your data frequently and validate that the data can be restored. It is highly recommended that you backup to an external device such as a USB drive for all of your essential data, and do not keep the backup drive connected to the system all the time. It should only be connected to do the backup, and then once the backup has been completed, disconnected. That’s because if your computer were to become infected and the backup drive was connected, the infection could potentially infect, delete, or encrypt your backup, rendering it useless. Never connect the backup drive to the computer if you suspect that you might potentially have an infection until you clean the computer or device.

Support forums such as Malwarebytes Forums and a few others have members or staff that are highly trained and can assist you further if you have specific questions or issues about your devices or security, or would like more details on any particular information shared in this article.

URL links with further information or access to the programs mentioned:

Malwarebytes Support Forum

Tips to help protect from infection

Privacy – protecting your digital footprint

Do I need a Windows Registry Cleaner?

Backup your data

Content blockers

Malwarebytes Browser Guard

uBlock Origin

NoScript Security Suite

Web Browser recommendations

Delete cookies automatically | Cookie AutoDelete plugin

Browser push notifications: a feature asking to be abused

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