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Steps to take to secure your PC in 2021

Simple steps to make your PC more secure in your home-working environment.
By Oliver Osmond,

Due to the recent lockdowns of 2020 and the start of 2021; more people than ever are using their PCs to work from home. This means more people are handling sensitive company data away from the secure offices and may fall victim to a cyber-based attack. Here are some steps to take when it comes to securing your home working environment.

STEP 1: you should consider when it comes to a secure home working environment is your passwords. You should ideally have a unique password for all your logins and that they have a good length with a wide range of characters used. You should also never share your password or have them reference something personal that can be guessed by someone else (e.g., family pets’ birthdates etc.). A compromised password is the biggest personal security breach however is easily avoidable with good password practices.

STEP 2: your personal and work email. I have already mentioned having a secure password but there are other security threats to look out for when talking about emails. One type of security threat to look out for is something called “phishing”.

These types of email-based scams have been around since the early days of the internet however they are still catching out unaware users. They usually come in the form of a so-called “trusted business / organisation” who claim to have knowledge of you, usually as a “loyal customer”. They will ask you to give them personal information or to click a link imbedded in the email. Doing so could lead to your money being stolen to identity theft or a virus being downloaded to your computer or forwarded to other contacts on your email. So, how can you tell if an email is not genuine?

If the email is:

  • sent from a public email domain (e.g., @gmail.com instead of the company’s own email domain e.g., @swlep.co.uk),
  • misspelt with grammatical errors or just generally written poorly and not in the company’s usual standard,
  • with a suspicious attachment or hyperlink,
  • urgently telling you to do or respond to something – usually with an unclear or vague reason (e.g., overdue payment or something expiring).

If it is a bank or another trusted organisation that keeps frequent contact with you it is also a good idea to compare potential scam emails with the genuine emails you have received from them in the past to check for consistency. To avoid seeing these types of emails regularly; only give your email address out to trusted individuals and websites to avoid being targeted.

STEP 3: Let's talk about computer viruses. I mentioned computer viruses when talking about emails but here I will talk about how to combat them and what programs you can download and use. A computer virus, much like the phishing emails, are programs that pose as something innocent or useful but when executed it becomes a program designed to attack, weaken and even paralyse your computer.

This can lead to you losing your important data and is why antivirus software is so important. Most company laptops that people will use when working from home (as well as your own PC) have some form of antivirus installed or at the very least an active windows defender / firewall. However, there are many different antivirus software out there to use with their own features that can help keep your PC safe. Popular options include:

  • Norton,
  • MCAfee,
  • Avast,
  • AVG.

This is a selection of user-friendly antivirus software that you can at least get a free trial version of to test them out. However, it needs to be said that some antivirus software can overwhelm the user with scheduled scans, updates and (debatably) unnecessary additional software installations. It is best to have a look around and see trusted user reviews about the antivirus software that you may be interested in.

My personal preference when it comes to antivirus software is Malwarebytes which is admittedly less user friendly but gives the user a greater amount of control and detail over the type of antivirus scan you want to perform. So, it is preferably for the type of user who is more experienced with computers.

If the worst comes to happen and you are unable to login to your computer due to a virus attack, Windows has systems in-place to repair / restore Windows to an earlier state. One way to do this is with the Windows installation disk in the CD drive or with a USB stick with bootable Windows software present on it when starting up your PC. Follow on-screen instructions to perform the necessary repairs your computer needs to get it working again.

Using these steps provided, you should now have a more safe and secure home working environment to see you through 2021.