The last thing you want to do when you get a new computer, mobile device, or tablet is spend a lot of time setting it up. But like any major appliance, these devices are something you want to invest a little time setting up properly. Often, they’re not cheap. And you want them to last. So, before you jump online and start shopping, gaming, or browsing, take some time to ensure your device is ready for anything the internet can and will throw at it.
There’s a caveat, though, of which Webroot security analysts are quick to remind users. “Even if you’ve taken every precaution when it comes to configuring your new device,” says Webroot Threat Research Analyst Connor Madsen, “it’s important to remember that proper online etiquette is essential to your security.”
“Clicking on links that don’t seem quite right, opening attachments from unknown senders, or otherwise ignoring your best security instincts is a good way to undermine any effective online security protection.”Connor Madsen, Threat Research Analyst
For best results, in addition to the warning issued above, here are five tips for making sure your device, and the important files stored within it, are safe from common risks.
#1 – Update software
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure the operating system on all your devices is up to date. One of the most common methods hackers use to launch attacks is exploiting out-of-date software. Failing to install periodic patches and software updates leaves your new device vulnerable to the numerous threats lurking on the web. Depending on how old and out-of-date your device is, it may take a while for applications to update. However long it takes, it’s preferable to the hassle and expense of having to undo an infection after it’s bypassed your security perimeter.
#2 – Enable firewall
Speaking of your security perimeter, the first line of defense along that perimeter is your firewall or router, if you’re using one. A router works as a firewall for the devices connected to it. But, if you’re not using a router, make sure your firewall is enabled to protect you from malicious traffic entering your network. This is different from an antivirus, which protects you from malicious files.
#3 – Install antivirus
Malicious files can be disguised as attachments in an email or links on the web, even the apps you download. So, it’s important to have an antivirus solution to protect your new computer. Malware attacks like ransomware make constant news these days. And everyone’s a target, from individual users to local businesses, hospitals, or municipalities. The cybercriminals launching these attacks are constantly changing, evolving threats to be more sophisticated and harder to detect. That’s why it’s important to keep your antivirus as up-to-date as your operating system and other applications.
#4 – Back up
Once you have your operating system and applications updated, your firewall enabled and an effective anti-virus application, you can begin using your computer safely. But there’s one more thing you need to consider if you’re going to be creating and storing important documents and work material on your new machine. Any new files on your computer will need to be backed up. That’s when you make a copy of the contents on your machine and store it in a safe place just in case you lose the original or it becomes infected by a virus. Since no single security solution can be 100 percent effective, it’s best to have a backup copy of important files. The thing is, you don’t want to have to decide what’s worth backing up and what’s not. That’s far too labor-intensive and it introduces the possibility of human error. Your best bet is to use a solution that’s designed for this purpose. A true backup solution protects files automatically so you don’t have to remember what you copied and what you didn’t. It also greatly simplifies file recovery, since it’s designed for this purpose.
#5 – Wipe your old device
Just because you have a shiny new toy doesn’t mean you can forget about your old machine. Before you relegate it to the scrap heap, make sure there’s nothing important or confidential on it you wouldn’t want someone to have access to. You could have old passwords saved, tax records, or sensitive work documents that you wouldn’t want shared. The best way to do this is to wipe the contents of your old device and reinstall the operating system from its original state.
Seem overwhelming? If so, it’s best to remember that one of your strongest cybersecurity tools is common sense. While things like an antivirus and backup strategy are essential for maintaining good cyber hygiene, remember Madsen’s advice.
“If it seems like an offer that’s too good to be true, or something about a link or file just doesn’t seem right, don’t click or download it. Trust your instincts.”