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Best computer security tips

It's a given: each new week we discover that our computers are vulnerable to a new virus or to a new wave of cyberattacks, and we may even learn that the CPUs themselves have severe flaws, allowing cybercriminals to get access to our sensitive information, including credit card numbers and various security codes. All of the sudden, our computers, which were doing their jobs perfectly, need to be patched asap, and sometimes even thrown away, in case that the existing vulnerabilities can't be fixed through a software patch.

Don't lose hope, though; there are several things that can be done to minimize the damage. They may not stop all the attacks, but they may make people who are trying to hack your computer move on to the next, easier to reach target. Here's what you need to do to keep your computer as secure as possible.

1. Patch it. If you own a legit copy of Windows, you are entitled to receive free updates to it. So, ensure that automatic updates are enabled. Also, if you find out about a severe vulnerability, it is a good idea to check for updates manually, at least once a week. Sometimes it may take a while until the updates are pushed to your system.

My strong recommendation is to upgrade to Windows 10, if you haven't done that already. Since Microsoft won't release another major version of its O.S. in the future, you'll get free updates for this robust operating system for life.

Keep an eye on potential updates for all the installed applications as well. Make it a habit to check for updates at least a month, and especially for the apps that connect to the Internet. There are various applications that can simplify this task, monitoring the installed software for you, and telling you when a new patch is available. Here's an application that works quite well.

2. Keep it safe. Install a good antivirus, which has been recommended by a reputable website, such as PC Magazine, etc. I can't recommend a specific solution, but here's one of their recent reviews. Resist the temptation to use a free antivirus, because none of these products can rival a paid product.

3. Keep it secure. Set up a Windows password, making sure that it is a long, complex one. Just think at two of your favorite foods, your shoe size and a weird symbol, and then combine them like this: cabbage8broccoli$. I know it's not a perfect password, but it is much better than "12345" or "monkey", which continue to be used by millions of people, and can be cracked in less than a second.

4. Back it up. Yes, start backing up your data regularly. I do this once a month using an external hard drive, but if you have a lot of important data, you should also use a cloud backup service. I like Dropbox, because it mirrors everything you copy to its dedicated folder automatically, but you can use your favorite provider, of course.

5. Ignore unsolicited emails. Don't open them, or at least don't open their attachments and don't click the links inside them. Most trojans spread as email attachments, and (sadly) many people are persuaded to open them. I am sure that you are smarter than that.

So, there you have them: five PC security tips that can help make your computer less vulnerable. Don't forget to keep an eye on the sites that discuss various computer security topics on a regular basis, use the offered advice, and I guarantee that you will be safe.