You can own a PC for two minutes, or 20 years and still be making some basic mistakes with your computer — ones that affect your personal security.
These mistakes aren’t the most obvious ones to know about unless you’ve used computers for a long time, or you’ve had them blow up in your face already. This is why they’re so easy to make, although you’d never want to learn the hard way or have to repeat them to finally get the lesson across.
So, to protect yourself and your family, it’s good to learn more about these mistakes to help keep yourself from making them in the future. The biggest mistakes PC users make might not be immediately apparent to you, but the solutions are simple. So protecting yourself and your personal information is as easy as reading our helpful tips.
Check out our list below to see what the three biggest security mistakes PC users make are, and how to fix them.
1. Not backing up the PC
When a hard drive fails, it can be an absolute nightmare. Years of work and documents can be gone in an instant — unless you regularly back up your PC.
All you need to do is get cloud storage for your PC, or buy an external hard drive or a flash drive large enough to hold your most important documents and files. Most cloud storage programs will perform regular backups on their own, so long as they have the space for it.
With external hard drives or flash drives, you just need to remember to plug them into your PC every one to two weeks so you have current files to work off of if your PC were to malfunction or get deadly malware.
Of course, external hard drives and flash drives can fail in much the way the internal hard drives inside your PC can. Cloud storage services back up your computer faster and can back up all of your devices, like your phone and your tablet, as well as your PC.
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Related: Data disaster! How to save lost files from a failing hard drive
2. Not using ransomware protection
Another big mistake PC users make is not getting ransomware protection for their computers. Ransomware is a kind of malware that accesses a computer, locates important, personal documents and data and blocks access to them by encrypting them. In order to remove the block, you have to pay the hacker a ransom; hence the “ransom” part of ransomware.
This is obviously a scary form of malware and hacking, but it’s one that’s entirely preventable. First of all, if you avoid mistake number one above by having backups of your important documents, you can’t be threatened by a lack of access.
The next thing you can do is use anti-virus software to keep ransomware from getting on your PC in the first place. There are some great products out there to check out, but Windows actually has a basic protection built into it already called Controlled Folder Access.
Controlled Folder Access protects data and documents by only allowing apps on a list of trusted software to access folders you set as secure. A foreign bit of malware will not be on the list of trusted apps, so it won’t be able to access important or private documents, which keeps your computer and you safe.
You can set up Controlled Folder Access via the Windows Security App, or the System Center Configuration Manager and Intune. You’re able to add whatever apps you want to the trusted list and remove others.
Choose which folders are protected, and which ones are not. You’ll be informed if an app not on the list tries to access a protected folder (you can even customize the notification, in case you have a shared computer or a company-wide shared drive you’re protecting).
This awesome, built-in feature will keep your computer safe and works incredibly well with Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection, Windows-manufactured anti-virus software. Use both, or at least Controlled Folder Access, to keep your important files safe from malware.
3. Installing Windows updates blindly
The last mistake PC users make is updating their operating system (OS) blindly — without checking to see what’s changing in their system when they allow it to update. Now, in general, it’s better to keep your devices updated.
Developers and companies correct bugs and close security gaps with software updates, so you want to make sure you don’t miss those. But updates are also when developers might try something new, and those can mess up your computer, or leave it vulnerable to attacks.
Windows is currently discontinuing the Windows Media Center and DVD Player applications that you might want to keep running. If you update your system without checking what you’re getting, you’ll lose these apps for sure.
On top of that, new Windows 10 updates are obtaining more information on you as a user. This can improve your overall use of the system, but it can also mean more personal information about you is accessible to Microsoft and crafty hackers. You want to make sure you’re comfortable with the security you’re granting with the next Windows update before you agree to it for sure.
So before you update your Windows operating system, use the Windows’ feature that lets you see what updates are available and pick and choose which ones you want to download and install.
Just go to Start >> Settings >> Update & Security, then Windows Update and select “Check for updates” to see the list of available updates. Within this list, you can click on particular ones and see what the update includes or entails of your system.
To avoid this common mistake, turn off automatic updating in your Update & Security settings so you can manually update your system instead. This way, you keep it customizable and limit access some developers and corporations have to you and your device, once again keeping you safer.