With warmer weather around the corner, many of us set about cleaning and organizing our homes and offices. While you’re dusting and vacuuming, it’s also a good idea to do a little spring cleaning on your PC. New cyber-scams are surfacing daily, and hackers have become more sophisticated. Here are five actions you can take now to help safeguard your personal and financial information and keep your computer running smoothly.
- Update your anti-virus protection.
Many operating systems, like Windows 10, include anti-virus software; however, it’s important to update it regularly. Check online to see if there are updates to your current anti-virus program, and if you have not installed anti-virus software, be sure to do so pronto. Some of the top-rated—and free—programs rated highly by PC Magazine include Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, Lavasoft, and WebRoot. Make sure you download the most recent version.
- Change your passwords.
Create passwords that are difficult for cyber thieves to “crack,” including a combination of random characters, numbers and uppercase and lowercase letters. It’s best not to use real words. A good idea is to use a phrase that you can easily remember but is hard for others to guess (for example, “Iluv2pl@yTenni$!”).Don’t use your birthday, social security number, spouse or children’s names or birthdates, pets’ names, etc. And it’s best not to use the same password for every site. Keep a list of your passwords somewhere other than your computer, and update it regularly. Set up a timeout that requires you to re-enter your password after a brief period of inactivity.
- Remove unnecessary add-ons.
Sometimes when downloading a program online, annoying browser add-ons like toolbars, plug-ins and extensions often come with it. While some add-ons like Flash and Silverlight are needed to watch certain videos and multimedia, add-ons can also cause browsers to run slow and crash. Some also contain viruses and malware. To learn how to delete add-ons, Google “manage add-ons” and the name of your browser (i.e., “Manage add-ons in Internet Explorer”). Make sure any add-ons you do install are from a trusted source.
- Delete old files and programs.
Deleting unused programs and files on your computer frees up space on your hard drive and helps your computer run faster and more efficiently. You can do this manually, by opening up folders on your PC and uninstalling programs you don’t use and deleting old files. This can be time-consuming, though, so another method is to use the disk cleanup feature on your computer. For instructions, Google “Delete files using Disk Cleanup for Windows” or something similar if you’re using a Mac.
- Back-up your files.
This may seem like a no-brainer but many times we are busy or distracted and don’t think about backing up our computer until it’s too late. Avoid the heartbreak of losing years of family photos and documents. Buy an external hard drive and back up your computer regularly. You can also use a cloud application so your documents are automatically sent to the cloud. Many cloud applications offer free storage that will meet most basic storage needs. Another advantage of storing files to the cloud is that you can access your files from anywhere.
Sources: moneytalksnews.com, PCmagazine.com