Which safety tip should you never use?

PC Safety: 10 Golden Rules Everyone Should Follow

PC security can be that simple. Those who adhere to the following 10 golden rules can protect themselves from the most common dangers.

Note: For experienced PC users, there should be few surprises here - but our clearly formulated 10 rules on PC security are perfect for bringing beginners and less tech-savvy family members, friends and acquaintances up to date. Feel free to share the article - we look forward to any "PC drama" averted in this way.

1. Make a backup regularly

This is the most boring, but ultimately the most important rule for the security of your data. You can never be 100% protected from Trojans and hard drive crashes. Your data will not be lost with a backup.

  • How often? That depends on how important your data is to you.
  • Where? On an external disk that is otherwise separate from the PC.
  • By which? Just copy! Or with tools like Ashampoo Backup (formerly Ocster) or Personal Backup.

2. Install a popular security suite

The common security suites all offer a high level of protection in all security areas of your computer. They protect against attacks from the web, e-mails or USB sticks.

  • Is a free suite enough? Yes, Avira or Avast as freeware are not worse, but they are more annoying with advertising.
  • What about the Defender included with Windows? Better than nothing, but lower in the level of protection.

Reading tip: Antivirus test 2020: the best virus scanners in comparison

3. Update Windows and all other programs

Since almost all programs are connected to the network, they all have security gaps. These are only fixed by updates.

  • Which are the most important? Operating system, internet programs (especially the browser plugins Flash, Java, Acrobat) and the security programs.
  • Are automatic updates advisable? Yes!

4. Use strong passwords everywhere

The more important an account is to you, the more secure the password should be - depending on how serious the loss of the account would be.

  • What is a strong password? 12 characters, with numbers and special characters, no linguistic terms.
  • I can't remember 12 characters! Take a password manager like Keepass.
  • Is one password sufficient for all accounts? Unfortunately, no. If a hacker finds an access code, it would get into all of your other accounts.

5. Create a user account for yourself

In Windows you should never work or surf the web with the admin account. Create a simple account right from the start and get used to working with it on a day-to-day basis.

  • Isn't that often awkward? Rare. Windows then only asks for the admin password every now and then, e.g. for new installations.

6. Be careful with browser scripts and plugins

The main gateway for pests is the web. Malicious sites (or malicious banners on benign sites) install Trojans through holes in browsers and their plugins.

  • Are not the updates mentioned in point 3 sufficient? It is better if you restrict the execution of plugins in the browser so that you first have to start this content with one click.
  • This is awkward! Goes so. Most of the content now comes with HTML 5 and no longer with plugins.
  • Then the problem is just shifted to the browser! Correct. That is why it is also useful to restrict scripts. The Firefox add-on NoScript has proven itself here.
  • With that I only see empty, white pages! The trick is to specifically release exceptions until the frequently visited pages work. A short, not too laborious learning process.

7. Be careful with third-party devices

Any USB stick or drive can transfer viruses and Trojans to your PC. So be careful and do not connect every stick that someone offers you (e.g. at a trade fair with further information). Photo booths, for example, where many users connect sticks, are a popular trading point for viruses. XP is often still running in the machines.

  • Will the security suite protect me? In most cases yes, but there are always new Trojans that are not recognized by the security programs.
  • Are there any other dangerous devices? Yes, all internet-enabled devices can become a gateway, e.g. routers (see below), WiFi repeaters or smart TVs. All of them have an operating system that is often not updated by manufacturers and therefore remains incomplete.
  • How do I protect myself from it? Keep the firmware up to date as much as possible and protect your PCs with a security suite.

8. Be careful with someone else's data

The same as for third-party devices also applies to third-party files. Most files have the potential to cause harm, and executables are at greater risk. This not only includes exe files, but also scripts that are embedded in other documents, especially Office macros.

  • Then I can no longer accept Office data? Yes, since version 2007 MS Office no longer starts macros automatically. At the top there is a bar with the message Activate content or similar. Under no circumstances should you click on it, because then the macros, including any Trojans, will start.
  • Can I trust documents from friends? Not necessarily. Viruses often come from correct e-mail addresses, especially by e-mail, because the sender can be forged.
  • Are there any other dangerous files? Yes, e.g. codecs that should be reloaded for Internet videos. This is a popular hacking trick on Facebook & Co. To watch a film, you should reload a code. There is usually a Trojander in there.

9. Secure your router against hacker attacks

Your router is a central point of attack on your home network. Once an attacker has established himself here, he can control your network and all devices largely unnoticed. You should protect the router particularly well. It starts with a very secure password for the web interface (20 random characters, e.g. generated with Keepass) and ends with updates for the firmware.

  • How do I secure the WLAN? Again, you should take a long, secure key and change it regularly. Select WPA2 (CCMP) as the encryption standard for the wireless network, no other. If one of your devices does not support this, you should replace the device.
  • What about my shared services? Each of these services (mostly: remote access to routers or NAS) poses a potential risk. Open as few ports as possible in the router firewall (keyword: port forwarding), preferably none at all. Because every open port is a gateway into your entire home network.

10. Be careful in unfamiliar networks

If you become part of a strange or - even worse - an open WLAN with your laptop, you should be particularly careful. You are in the same network segment with all computers, so that many security mechanisms do not work.

  • Windows asks me what kind of network it is. Right, be sure to select Guest or Public Network and check that in the network settings. You should definitely deactivate file and printer sharing there.
  • Is that enough protection? No. In addition, you should only surf with VPN (e.g. Avira Phantom, Spyoff or Okay Freedom). This prevents special attacks on logins and at the same time protects you from the curious operator of the hotspot, whose router all the data flows through.

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