By Matthew Stern
As technology advances and more people have started working from home, cyber-crime and cybersecurity threats have increased exponentially. Since the pandemic, nearly everyone uses an electronic device to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, which has encouraged hackers and impersonators to come up with cyber threats that are more sophisticated than ever.
Windows has been the most popular operating system in the world for decades now. While it’s the most familiar, affordable, and readily available, it’s also the operating system that faces the biggest security risks. Whether you use your Windows PC for business, gaming, or socializing, it’s important to understand the risks the system faces and what you can do to keep your data secure in 2021.
Top Risks Facing Windows PC Users
Malware is a very broad term that encompasses viruses, spyware, worms, and Trojans. Each of these malicious types of software are designed to encrypt, steal, or delete data. They can also be designed to hijack or alter core PC functions or even track the online activity of a user without his or her knowledge. Malware can make its way onto your PC through internet downloads, USB drives, and physical hard drives.
Ransomware is one of the most unsettling types of cybersecurity threats. It’s designed to lock up important files, data, or even an entire computer system and hold it for ransom. The hijacker that employs the ransomware will typically demand a sum of money for the decryption code. This type of attack can happen through an infected link or website.
Phishing or social engineering relies on human interaction and is the biggest security threat in 2021. Social engineering attacks occur when a hacker phishes for secure information that will give them access to software or data. Hackers achieve this by playing with a person’s emotions, luring them into the attack through email or private messages. They may also pose as a co-worker, friend, or family member to get information out of someone.
Public Wi-Fi increases your chances of falling victim to a cyber attack because you’re connecting to an open network where incoming and outgoing data is often unencrypted and unsecured. Hackers love public Wi-Fi because it gives them a chance to exploit a security flaw in the unsecured network and intercept sensitive data like passwords and financial information. This type of attack is referred to as a man-in-the-middle attack. You might also be lured into connecting to a rogue hotspot when you think you’re connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot. These rogue hotspots are planted by cybercriminals who use them to lure people into connecting to their network. When someone connects to their network, they can easily intercept data or infect the connected devices with malware.
Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your PC Protected
Now that you have a better understanding of the most common security risks for Windows PC users in 2021, you can follow the six tips and tricks below to keep your computer protected.
- Keep the Admin Account Separate
If you can help it, don’t use the admin account for daily activities. Set up separate user accounts and only use the admin account for updates or installing new software. It’s important to do this because admin permission will be required each time new software tries to get installed, which will alert you so that nothing gets downloaded unnoticed.
- Login with Windows Hello
Windows Hello offers much more secure sign-in options than entering a PIN. With Windows Hello, you’ll be required to log in using facial recognition or a fingerprint, which isn’t only more secure, but faster too. If you want to sign in using your fingerprint, you’ll have to get a fingerprint scanner for your computer, which is worth it for security assurance.
- Connect to the Internet with a VPN
To browse the web with peace of mind, use a VPN to connect to the Internet. A Virtual Private Network secures your computer bypassing all incoming and outgoing data through an encrypted tunnel. It also masks your IP address, keeping your location anonymous.
When you use a VPN, your information is kept hidden from everyone, including hackers, your ISP, and even the government. If you’re skeptical and want to give it a try before you commit, just sign up for a VPN free trial and see how easy and secure it is first-hand.
- Turn on Disk Encryption
BitLocker is Windows built-in disk encryption software. While it’s not available for Windows 10 Home, there are other disk encryption options available. Turning on-disk encryption is essential because it significantly lowers the chance that a hacker will be able to access your data.
- Use Controlled Folder Access
Enabling controlled folder access will protect your most important data from falling into the hands of hackers should your system ever get hijacked in a ransomware attack.
- Keep Everything Up-to-Date
From system updates to antivirus, it’s important to keep everything up-to-date to ensure your computer is protected with the latest security releases. The easiest way to do this is to turn on automatic updates, but if you don’t like the random interruptions, you should check often for updates so that you can make manual ones regularly.
Follow the six tips and tricks above to keep your Windows PC super-secure in 2021.
Matthew Stern is a technology content strategist at Assignyourwriter.co.uk, a tech blog aimed at informing readers about the potential dangers of technology and introducing them to the best ways to protect themselves online. As a tech enthusiast and an advocate for digital freedom, Matthew is dedicated to introducing his readers to the latest technology trends and teaching them how to gain control over their digital lives.