The risks are real, but the solution is clear.


  1. Install security software.

    Make no mistake, if you don't install strong security programs, your device's performance and your personal information are at serious risk. Anti-malware, anti-virus, and anti-trojan horse software are a must if you spend any time online. Set the software to run in the background of every activity to provide consistent protection. In fact, it doesn't hurt to double up. Some programs will detect intruders that others may not.

  2. Install a firewall.

    A firewall is your first line of defense against online bad guys. It monitors the data passed between your device and the Internet. When it spots suspicious inbound or outbound data, it either filters out questionable packets of information or disallows the connection entirely.

    Ensure your device's firewall is turned on, and consider installing an additional firewall. If you have more than one device connected at home, you should also have a hardware firewall (i.e. router) that includes firewall protection to protect your network.

  3. Ensure your device is configured securely.

    Review your device's security settings and make sure the right level of security and privacy is enabled. Most settings can be configured through the Privacy & Security Settings/Preferences section on your device. You should also configure your browser's internet security and privacy settings found under Options/Settings.

  4. Update software regularly.

    Hackers work night and day to develop new methods to crack your system. Even the best security software can be compromised if you don't update its protection against emerging threats. Set your operating system and security software to check for and apply updates automatically:

    • Use your Start Menu to check for updates to my version of Windows OS
    • Check Apple's Software Updates to view the latest updates for my version of Mac OS
  5. Lock down your device.

    Think that you'll never lose your laptop? That burglars don't know how to search your hard drive? That no one is peaking at your device when you step away? Your trust may be misplaced. Secure access to your device with a password. Then set your system to require the password each time your device starts up, wakes up from sleep mode, or experiences a set period of inactivity. Also, set up a PIN on your mobile device to prevent access to your personal information and files in case of theft.

  6. Secure your wireless network.

    The convenience of wireless networks comes bundled with additional risks. Secure access to your WiFi network with a password to make sure that strangers are not accessing your personal information. Also, verify modem or router settings to ensure your network's WPA2 encryption is enabled, so that data transmitted from your device cannot be intercepted by third parties. If your existing encryption options include WEP or WPA, you might consider upgrading your firmware since these encryption technologies are outdated and susceptible to hacking.

  7. Secure your passwords.

    It's an obvious but important point: security measures that require passwords are only as secure as their passwords. Combine numbers, letters, case, and symbols to create unique, secure passwords - the longer the better. Do not use the same password for more than one or two functions, and do change your passwords at least every 90 days. Do not share your passwords and do store them in a safe place. 

  8. Develop safe internet habits.

    Never enter personal information on devices or wireless networks that are not under your direct control. If you are using public devices or networks, logout of email or websites (not simply close the browser), and delete your temporary internet files and history by going to the browser's settings or options page. When surfing the internet, avoid clicking on links in pop-up ads and banners which are often fraudulent, and can infect your device. Also, do not click on links that appear in attachments in emails and text messages unless you have specifically requested that these be sent to you.

  9. Talk to your kids. Watch your kids.

    Consistent parental involvement is the best protection kids have against online risks. Educate yourself and talk to your kids about proper online behavior. Limit the risks further by installing parental controls that allow you to set criteria for Internet content, programs used, time spent online, and online chat partners.

  10. Keep your personal information safe.

    With identity theft on the rise, it's crucial to monitor your personal information and accounts to help keep yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. Review your bank and credit card statements regularly to detect any activity out of the ordinary.