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How to secure your computer and online accounts in 10 simple steps

Data breaches, hacks, and vulnerable software makes it easier than ever for a hacker to get access to your data. These simple steps can help mitigate it happening in the first place.
By Zack Whittaker, Contributor on
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1. Set a strong password, and use a password manager

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2. Remove bundled crapware and bloatware

Even with a brand new Windows PC, do you really know what's on it? Removing software and apps that are preinstalled with your new computer can help improve your security. After Lenovo was found to have installed a covert tracking tool and broke encryption on new computers, it sparked a new wave of hatred for pre-installed junk software. Removing these apps and pseudo-antivirus programs (which more often than not want you to pay for them) can cut down on how many points of attack a hacker or malware can get you from.

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4. Enable full-disk encryption

Setting up encryption on your hard drives is relatively straight-forward with most tools, and could save your private data from ending up in the wrong hands. Without the right password, your data is scrambled and unreadable.

Something open-source like TrueCrypt is best while TrueCrypt itself is off the table because it's no longer in development (though a recent audit said it's still essentially trustworthy). There are offshoot alternatives, like VeraCrypt, that are said to be the next-best thing. Or Microsoft's BitLocker or Apple's FileVault are good built-in solutions -- but while they may keep hackers away, they won't deter the US government.

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5. Use HTTPS Everywhere plugin for Firefox, Chrome browsers

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6. Uninstall Java, and lock down Adobe plugins

Java. The bane of most IT professional's existence. Most websites don't use the plugin, instead opting for modern Web standards. Java is renowned for being riddled with bugs and security issues. Homeland Security has previously warned users about using the software. Simply disable and uninstall it if you know you don't need it.

Meanwhile, apps like Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader are also known to be troublesome, but are still widely used. Your best bet is to make them update automatically in the background. There's advice on how to do this for both Flash and Reader.

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8. Keep your machine patched and up-to-date

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10. Use a virtual private network for public Wi-Fi use

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