Top Ten Tips

For those who want the bare minimum, do not have time or the technical skills to implement all 11 sections.

Keep it up-to-date
Make sure your OS is up to date by downloading and installing all available patches, hot fixes and service packs. With Microsoft Windows XP and upwards it is usually done for you and you can choose how often and what level of updates to download and install. 3rd party patches should be installed also as or more importantly as operating system patches.

Encrypt sensitive data
Data is often most at risk when it’s moving around and this applies to USB drives, external hard drives, CDs, DVDs, laptops and email. It's especially advisable to encrypt mobile devices such as removable media and laptops. If you have sensitive files on your computer then encrypt them to.

Use a user account
There are generally two types of accounts within Microsoft Windows, an Administrator account and a User account. Administrator accounts obviously have high privileges and can be used to install malicious software. A very simple tip is to log-in as a User account then malicious software can only do so much damage. When you wish to install something log-in as the Administrator or right-click and click 'run as' (saves you logging in and out, you only have to enter a password).

Invest in an internet security suite
A internet security suite (firewall, antivirus, anti-spam and more). Many people will buy a computer, which can be anything from £400 to £1000 and don't want to fork out £30 to £40 for an internet security suite. The standard Windows firewall is OK but it doesn’t protect you from viruses and more. An internet security suite will protect you from multiple threats but, be careful, there are some rogue ones out there. Do some research before downloading and installing as some rogue ones will do more harm than good.

Secure your Wi-Fi
Some people think a Wi-Fi network only needs to be secure at home to stop neighbours pinching the broadband bandwidth. The main problem is the possibility of someone intercepting your data, stealing your password, viewing your emails and breaking into your accounts. Other piggy-backing scenarios arise when cyber criminals want to deface a website, break into military networks, view illegal content or steal credit card details. If this is done from their home then a trace may be possible so, in extreme cases, terrorists could use your network to send emails and if this happen you will be the initial suspect.

Be careful what you open
Since the inception of emails, viruses have been passed around as attachments. Viruses still travel around by email but, thanks to improved virus scanning, criminal gangs are now placing links within emails that lead to malicious software. So, the next time you receive an email from a stranger, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Virus scanners are not 100% accurate so just because it says it's clean, doesn't mean it is. File extensions are also not to be trusted and this also applies to software you download and install – do research to check if it’s genuine.

Be wary of public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi hotspots are often unsecured with no encryption which means that someone with criminal intent and the right skills could be logging your data as you type. Try to use public hotspots with encryption and, if you are worried, buy a VPN service. Also try to avoid public computers in hotels or internet cafés.

Disconnect and turn off when not in use
The internet is the single biggest threat to computers. Take away the internet and computers are, in themselves, generally very secure but of course these days a computer without an internet connection would be a waste of time. When you have finished working turn off the computer and disconnect the internet to reduce exposure.

Run a vulnerability scanner
The amount of add-ons, services and software installed within any operating system makes it difficult to know what is secure and what could be exploited remotely. Vulnerability scanners can scan the software, registry, files, and services to see what is vulnerable and how it can be fixed.

Choosing a strong password
The ideal password is long, complex, and easy-to-remember – but hard to break. Good passwords are often hard to remember so the examples below may help.

First pick a group of words
  • I have a black labrador dog called charlie
  • my house is in south-east london
  • my favourite rock band is the beatles
  • my favourite musical instrument is the saxophone
  • I got married in paris in france
  Take each first character and make a word
  • ihabldcc
  • mhiisel
  • mfrbitb
  • mfmiits
  • igmipif
Add a random word at the end
  • ihabldccapple
  • mhiiselemail
  • mfrbitbmicro
  • mfmiitsred
  • igmipifebay
  Further strengthen
  • ihabldcc@pple
  • mhii$elemail
  • mfrb1tbmicro
  • mfmiits-red
  • igmipif+ebay