Simple Security: The Security Software Novices Really Need

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Disclaimer: this post was done in partnership with SecureThoughts, the website that helps everyday people make sure their information and love ones are protected online. Learn more about their work at securethoughts.com
With billions of users accessing the net every day, it’s no surprise that there’s been a spike in cybercrime. As more people gain access, there are more and more opportunities for criminals to take advantage of unsuspecting, unprepared victims. That doesn’t need to be you!

Besides knowing how to properly navigate the net and identify scams, you need to have the right kind of security software installed. I’m not just talking about your home computer either—phones and tablets are just as at risk as a traditional computer, possibly more due to their dependence on WiFi.
So before you take one more step into the world at large, be sure to read on and learn how to keep you and your devices safe online and off.

Keeping Out the Bad

When you step into the world of security, ask yourself this question: is it better to clean paint off your shoes or to wear covers over your shoes to keep paint from ever getting on them? Security is best broken up into these two camps much like any other area of life. Prevention, as you no doubt guessed, is the preferred route.

For instance, let’s say you’re planning to use some of Samsung’s cool new features. You just purchased a new Note7, and it thankfully hasn’t burned your house down. Most of these features require you to be online. It’s probably a safe bet to say users such as yourself try to use WiFi regularly to cut down on data usage.

Read more: My experience with the Galaxy Note7
Hackers are aware of this and take advantage of the fact that most WiFi networks are severely unguarded. They either have no passwords or have passwords so simple that anyone could guess them. In just moments, hackers can connect to other users on a WiFi network and either directly steal their information or plant malware to do it for them.

That’s where our first software recommendation comes in. Stopping this kind of crime is simple with the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is a service that changes how you access the internet and how the internet accesses you.

In simple terms, a VPN protects your internet by encrypting what you send and receive. That means no one but you can see what’s going on. Everything is routed through a secure remote server. As a result, you also become anonymous online. Not only does that prevent you from being a target, but it also allows you the luxury of accessing websites without being tracked.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth explanation of VPNs, Secure Thoughts has a detailed review of the uses, setup and costs associated with the service.

Cleaning Up the Mess

VPNs might be a fantastic tool, but they aren’t a cure-all. Sometimes malware still ends up slipping in because of a scam or momentary lapse in judgment. Nobody’s perfect, after all.

That’s where you’ll want an anti-virus to get rid of anything you end up with on your devices. But things have improved a lot since the old days; anti-virus apps are now predominantly free, except their “additional services.” They’re also handy in that they can help prevent malware from being opened even if you do accidentally download it.

Sometimes that isn’t quite enough; you’ve got an awesome anti-virus, and you’ve deleted the malware that threatened to steal your data, but now your device is in trouble. That could be a problem—unless you’re using backup software. Phones and tablets are easy to get backup apps for, and some providers even offer said services with their devices.

Both Samsung and Apple have backup features, but they aren’t all-encompassing. You can store things like your contacts and apps with an online account such a Google, but other data saved on your phone such as pictures aren’t necessarily so safe. Titanium Backup is a good app for Android devices. If you prefer to do things manually, using a service such as Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud is a good way to preserve information you don’t want to be lost.

Keep Those Passwords Safe


In school, they teach us how to read, write, do math, and even a bit about history and science. What they don’t teach people is how to protect online accounts with good passwords. What most of us don’t realize is that the increase in the number of accounts we access every day has made us lazy. When you have 30 accounts to remember, are you going to make 30 unique passwords?

The answer to that security quandary is to use a service such as LastPass. LastPass is a “master key” sort of service that allows you to store all of your passwords encrypted (using a similar type of technology to the aforementioned VPN). Then, you access your accounts using a single master password.

If you’re avoiding malware with a VPN and an anti-virus program and not sharing your master password, you’ll never have to worry about reusing passwords for different services simply because you won’t need to remember them. You can make sufficiently challenging passwords without being concerned whether you’ll remember them or not.

A little bonus note about account security: make sure you log out when you aren’t using a service. One of the easiest ways to quote “get hacked” is to leave your Facebook or other account logged in. All it takes is someone walking up and typing in whatever they want after that.

Don’t Be a Victim

There are plenty of other things you can do to avoid being on the wrong end of a cyber-attack, so be sure to learn about scams and other tricks criminals use to steal your information. With the right security software, most of those problems won’t end up being yours to deal with.

So arm yourself with the right tools, and get back to using the net safely and confidently!

Have other questions about online security? Feel free to post them in the comments.

About the Author: Caroline is an internet security specialist and entertainment blogger. She writes about the dangers of cybercrime and what users can do to keep themselves safe.

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