Cybercrime costs the UKover £3 billion
each year. From corporate espionage to phishing scams and large-scale data leaks, this insidious industry has a massive negative impact on the British economy.
But there are ways to mitigate the risk. Whether you’re a home user or an employee, you can help safeguard your laptop by adopting several clever protective measures.
In this post, we’re covering 16 things you can do to protect your laptop against cybercrime.
Common types of cybercrime
Before we present our tips, let’s briefly examine what online crime entails. Cybercrime manifests itself in three forms:
Crafty crims use a bewildering array of ways to funnel money out of their victims, from romance scams to phishing and extortion to unauthorised transactions.
Unscrupulous companies can use corporate espionage to obtain sensitive information and gain the upper hand against the competition.
Vandalism and harassment
Not all cybercrime is financially motivated. Hackers can use various nefarious tools to vandalise websites or harass individuals. Some do it for political reasons (like hacktivism), while others enjoy the thrill.
How to secure your laptop against cybercrime
1. Install anti-virus software
The best laptops for security come with a pre-loaded anti-virus program to protect against harmful Trojans, viruses, and Spyware. Windows users enjoy excellent protection with Windows Security, a free, pre-installed product that fortifies your laptop against nasty attacks. For next-level protection, sign-up for a subscription withHP Wolf Security Services
2. Update all your software
Whichever anti-virus software you opt for, it’s essential to keep it up to date. Cybercrims constantly discover new exploits to infiltrate their victims. Installing the latest updates will close these loopholes and help keep you safe.
But don’t stop with your anti-virus application. Update all your software suites, especially your favourite web browser. Developers regularly release new updates to counteract an ever-evolving list of vulnerabilities.
3. Set up a firewall
A firewall is a protective barrier that monitors incoming and outgoing traffic between your laptop and the internet. This potent protective measure blocks suspicious data packets to help secure your device.
Windows Security - and other popular anti-virus programs like HP Wolf Security - comes with an in-built firewall. If you’re on Windows, check thisMicrosoft firewall set-up guide
to ensure yours is configured correctly.
4. Creative complex passwords
Useunique, complex passwords
to make it hard for hackers to infiltrate your accounts. Avoid incorporating personal information, such as names or birthdays, as this data is easy to obtain. Instead, spring for a complex string of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols - aim for eight characters or more.
Never re-use the same password across multiple accounts. If a password gets released through a data leak (a common occurrence nowadays), all your other accounts with the same password will become vulnerable.
5. Use a password manager
Most regular web surfers have dozens of online accounts. So how could one possibly remember a convoluted string of characters and numbers for each?
The solution is to sign up for a password manager, which automatically stores and generates passwords across multiple accounts. You’ll find a selection of safe, easy-to-usepassword managers to download online
6. Get Two-Factor Authorisation
Companies are increasingly turning to Two-Factor Authorisation (2FA) to secure customer accounts. This common security system works by making the user enter two forms of identification when performing high-risk functions. Typically, you’ll type in your username and password and then enter a code received via SMS or email.
Although the extra step is mildly inconvenient, it makes a massive difference in protecting you against online threats. Always opt-in for the service when offered.
7. Watch out for phishing
Phishing scams are all the rage among cybercriminals these days - the practice accounts for up to 90% of data breaches worldwide. This crafty form of social engineering has hackers trick would-be victims into disclosing personal information, such as credit card numbers, passwords, or bank account details.
Most phishing scams prompt the target to click a legitimate-looking link through email. Always treat inbound correspondence with a healthy dose of scepticism. Examine the sender’s email address and look for tell-tale phishing signs like incorrect grammar or poor phrasing. Even when an email link looks legit, it’s best to load the relevant webpage through your browser instead. Learn more abouthow to identify and avoid phishing
8. Avoid suspicious websites
The internet is awash with dodgy websites designed to install malware or steal your personal information. Confine your web browsing to reputable sources, and don’t believe any too-good-to-be-true online offers.
Spoofed websites mimic an established webpage and can prove difficult to differentiate from the real thing. Many reach victims through phishing email links or enticing offers on social media. Before disclosing any personal information, double-check that the URL is legitimate. If in doubt, search for the website through your browser rather than clicking a link.
9. Protect your personal information
Unscrupulous websites can use your personal information - name, date of birth, passwords, etc. - to gain access to your accounts, including your online banking portal. Always ensure you’re dealing with a legit website before handing over any sensitive information.
Furthermore, every webpage is vulnerable to a data leak. It’s prudent to provide your personal information only when strictly necessary.
10. Only run executable files (.exe) from trusted sources
Executable files (which end in .exe) install or run programs on Windows. While this common file type is essential for many everyday tasks, .exe files from unreliable sources can come chock full of nasty surprises. Opening a dodgy .exe file could unleash a Pandora’s Box of malware into your laptop.
Avoid clicking files received via email or unfamiliar third-party distributors. Download it directly from the developer’s website instead. And keep a keen eye out for spoofed websites before downloading an .exe.
11. Be wary of impersonation scams
Scammers can impersonate a smorgasbord of seemingly trustworthy characters to extract funds from their victims. Some may pose as a company representative, while others adopt the persona of a friend, family member, or potential new flame. Either way, these imposters aim to deceive their targets into sending money or providing sensitive personal information.
Be sceptical of any unexpected correspondence. Contact the person (or institution) through an independent channel, such as an official phone number or email address, to confirm their legitimacy. Never send funds to a prospective romantic partner you haven’t met in person, no matter what sob story they may sling your way.
12. Back up your files
Inadvertently downloading a virus onto your laptop may cause it to stop functioning correctly. When that happens, you may lose access to your locally-stored files. Although file recovery may be possible in some situations, it’s a complex and expensive endeavour.
Protect yourself against unexpected data loss by regularly backing up your most important files. A combination of cloud-based storage, such as Microsoft OneDrive, and an external USB drive is the safest bet.
13. Only use trusted USB drives
Speaking of USB drives, only plug trusted peripherals into your laptop. External hard drives, USB thumb drives, and even accessories, like mice and keyboards, can contain malware and other viruses.
Scan all unfamiliar USB peripherals with a reputable anti-virus program to be on the safe side.
14. Protect your network
Some routers default to an open WiFi network, which means anyone within range can log in without a password. What’s more, many closed-network routers adopt a generic, easy-to-guess username and password combo, such as “admin” and “admin.”
An accessible WiFi network not only means a neighbour could steal your bandwidth, but it also puts your laptop at risk. A nearby hacker could access your network and install nefarious files or siphon personal information. To enhance security,encrypt your WiFi network
by enabling WPA2 or WPA3 in the router settings.
15. Be cautious with public WiFi
The main advantage of a laptop is you can use it on the move. However, public WiFi is notoriously unsafe. Any other network user could monitor your online movements, potentially sifting through personal info, stealing passwords, or accessing your accounts.
Use your mobile phone as a hotspot to share an internet connection with your laptop instead. If you must log into a public network, a VPN can help hide your activity from prying eyes. Also, avoid performing high-risk tasks like online banking or accessing sensitive work-related files.
16. Look for laptops with built-in security
The best laptop for security will have a pre-installed software application like HP Wolf, which is a significant step up from standard anti-virus applications. Boasting a plethora of hardware-enforced protocols, this state-of-the-art security suite maintains constant vigilance through a slew of always-on features.
Some high-security laptops also feature a physical sliding webcam cover to prevent extortionists from recording their prey.
There’s no doubt about it: cybercrime is on the rise. Around19% of Britons
have fallen victim, while up to39% of British businesses
suffer a cyber-attack each year.
Adopting these preventative measures into your everyday routine lets you obtain the best laptop protection possible and reduce your risk online.
Searching for the best security laptop? Grab a device with HP Wolf from theHP UK Store.
About the Author
Harry Stewart is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. He is a freelance content writer covering everything from travel to tech.