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Ridiculously simple security settings your IT guy wishes you knew

Do you have an “IT guy” in your life? It could be your son or daughter, or a spouse, friend or other acquaintance. Or it might be a professional IT guy you or your employer pays to help keep your gadgets running.

Whoever it is, it’s never a bad thing to make their life easier. That’s why today we’re going to give you some simple security settings you can turn on that will make you safer, and make less work for them. And if you’re the IT guy or IT gal for other people, like many of us here at, be sure to send this to the people you take care of so it makes your life a bit easier.

1. Supercharge your passwords

Your password is the first line of defense against hackers trying to break into your online accounts. Unfortunately, complex passwords are annoying to make and hard to remember, which is why many people make ones that are too easy. For the best security, we recommend getting a password manager like KeePass to help you create strong passwords and securely store them.

Even then, it’s likely that a hacker is going to get your passwords at some point. Data breaches happen regularly and your username and password for any account might get leaked. Luckily, there’s a way to keep hackers out of your account regardless.

It’s called two-factor authentication, and behind the fancy name, it just means you need two forms of ID to log in to your account. The first form of ID is your password, and the second is usually a one-time code sent to your cellphone. Even if a hacker has your password, they probably won’t also have your phone.

Most major companies now offer two-factor authentication for their online accounts, and it takes just a second to set up. You can even designate secure computers to avoid the inconvenience of logging in with 2FA every time. However, it will still activate when you, or a hacker, tries to log in from an unfamiliar computer or gadget.

Learn how to turn on two-factor authentication for Google, Facebook and other online services you probably use. 

2. Block malicious apps on Android

It’s hard to get malicious apps on an Apple gadget because they have to sneak into the Apple Store first. However, Android lets you install apps from anywhere, including malicious text messages if you aren’t careful.

A few taps and you could be giving hackers full access to your information, including text messages and banking information. Fortunately, a single setting can almost eliminate this threat.

On your Android gadget, go to Settings >> Security and uncheck “Unknown Sources.” This blocks Android from installing apps from anywhere but the Google Play store. While you might still run into occasional malicious apps, you won’t be tricked into installing them up from malicious websites, text messages or emails.

Learn more about securing your gadgets, both Apple and Android, to keep out hackers and snoops.

3. Keep snoops off your network

Your Wi-Fi network is a great way to get your gadgets online, but it could also open your home up to passing hackers and snooping neighbors. That’s why you need to protect your network with the latest encryption and a strong password.

Get the full directions. Don’t worry, it only takes a minute or two. Then learn how to spot snoops already logged into your network.

4. Spot malicious files

A favorite trick of hackers is to hide malicious viruses as harmless files. An easy way to do this is to misname a program file as a music, video or image file. This is easy to do because Windows hides file extensions by default.

Turning on file extensions lets you quickly spot .exe and other program files before you click them. In Windows 8 and 10, open any folder and click the “View” tab at the top. Check “File name extensions” and you’ll immediately start seeing extensions on every file.

In Windows Vista and 7, open any folder and click “Organize” in the upper-left corner. Go to “Folder and Search Options” and then click the View tab. Uncheck the box that says “Hide extensions for known file types.” Then click “OK” and now you’ll see the full extension for every file.

Learn more about spotting malicious files and other tricks hackers use to hide them.

5. Close security holes in programs

No matter how careful software programmers are, programs are always going to have flaws in them. They’re just too complex to catch everything.

Hackers spend a lot of time looking for these flaws and using them to break into your computer. Security researchers keep tabs on the flaws hackers find and work on finding the flaws on their own. Then, they let the programmers know so they can release fixes.

That’s why keeping your operating system and programs up to date is so important. Otherwise, hackers have a free pass into your personal files.

Remembering to update is a pain, which is why so many programs do automatic updates. This should be turned on by default in most cases, but it never hurts to check.

Make sure automatic updates are turned on for Windows.

Make sure your browser’s automatic updates are turned on, plus four other ways to make your browser hacker-proof.

Bonus: Instantly block 86 percent of online threats

This is one of the most useful setting changes that you can know about. However, we made it the bonus tip because it isn’t quite as simple as clicking a button.

In fact, you need to change the type of Windows account you’re using. This could be as simple as changing a setting or two, or a major production depending on how your account is already set up.

However, making this one change can instantly eliminate 86 percent of the threats to your computer, so it’s well worth doing. Get detailed step-by-step instructions to checking and changing your account type.

Want to make sure your computer is actually secure? Learn how to test your computer security to find the same holes hackers are going to look for.

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