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Being aware of the importance of online security and privacy is a key aspect of using connected technology. Many people log on and browse; they read spam email, click links to dodgy websites, and shrug when their phone or laptop is stolen.

No really, these people exist. You might know them.

You might be them (although your presence here suggests otherwise).

Awareness is half the battle. Using the right tools and behaviors is the other. We’ve collated the following to help you get to grips with how to keep your personal information out of the hands of hackers, scammers, and online criminals.

Online Security Suites

If you’re reading this without the support of an online security tool, you’re making a big mistake. At the very least you should have Windows Defender active Windows Defender: 7 Things You Must Know About Microsoft's Antivirus Solution Windows Defender: 7 Things You Must Know About Microsoft's Antivirus Solution Is Microsoft's built-in security good enough? Microsoft continuously improves its security tools. We'll show you the upsides and downsides of Windows Defender in Windows 8, Read More ; at best, you should employ a premium tool like BitDefender Bitdefender Internet Security 2015: The Ideal Choice For Home PCs [Giveaway] Bitdefender Internet Security 2015: The Ideal Choice For Home PCs [Giveaway] Offering anti-virus, privacy protection, safe banking, firewall and parental control for just $79.95, Bitdefender Internet Security 2015 would seem to be the optimum choice for anyone looking to give their home computer security a boost. Read More or free options like Avast Free Antivirus Stay Protected From Every Type Of Malware With Avast Free Antivirus Stay Protected From Every Type Of Malware With Avast Free Antivirus Comprehensive malware protection doesn't need to cost a fortune. Many reputable free antivirus programs are equally effective as paid ones, and avast! Free Antivirus stands with the best Windows antivirus programs. Read More .

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Security suites combine firewall applications, anti-virus scanning, and live checks on running processes to ensure no malicious software is active on your PC. They might also include password management and secure wallet tools for keeping your credentials safe when logging into websites and making payments online.

Omitting to use one of these tools on a Windows computer is risky. Threats can come from all angles, through your browser, your email inbox, via shortened URLs on Twitter Unshorten It: Decode a Shortened Url & See Which Website It Leads To Unshorten It: Decode a Shortened Url & See Which Website It Leads To Read More , and a security suite will keep you safe.

Standalone Anti-Malware Tools

You should also be employing at least one standalone anti-malware tool to scan for and deal with any malware and adware that ends up on your system. It’s very tough to run a computer without picking up something malicious, whether it’s some aggressive advertising cookies Cookie Checker: Find Out What Cookies A Site Uses Cookie Checker: Find Out What Cookies A Site Uses Read More or something far worse like ransomware Avoid Falling Victim To These Three Ransomware Scams Avoid Falling Victim To These Three Ransomware Scams Several prominent ransomware scams are in circulation at the moment; let's go over three of the most devastating, so you can recognise them. Read More .

Using anti-malware tools in conjunction with a security suite will help cover any gaps in your security suite’s coverage. Regular checks will help to keep your personal data safe.

If you’re not already using Malwarebytes Anti-malware Grab a Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Lifetime License With Your Rewards Points! Grab a Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Lifetime License With Your Rewards Points! Read More , this should be your first choice. But also consider alternatives like Spybot – Search & Destroy Spybot - Search & Destroy: The Simple, Yet Effective Route For Cleaning Your PC Of Malware Spybot - Search & Destroy: The Simple, Yet Effective Route For Cleaning Your PC Of Malware With the ever-growing list of threats out there, one can never be too cautious. Sure you can watch what websites you visit and what you download, but even with those precautions, you should have some... Read More and SUPERAntispyware SUPERAntiSpyware Is A Vital Tool In The Fight Against Malware SUPERAntiSpyware Is A Vital Tool In The Fight Against Malware Read More , as well as learning how to spot malware 5 Videos That Teach You How to Spot and Delete Malware 5 Videos That Teach You How to Spot and Delete Malware Malware removal can be frustrating and time consuming. And not all security suites are made equal. This article will help you spot malware activity on your PC and employ the right tactics to remove it. Read More  on your system.

Use Your Router Firewall for Extra Network Defense

With a security suite installed, your computer’s firewall Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? Which Free Firewall For Windows Is Best For You? We place emphasis on antivirus and malware removal, but don't ignore firewalls. Let's take a look at the best free Windows firewalls, comparing ease of setup, ease of use, and availability of features. Read More is configured on your behalf. But for the best results, you’ll need to confirm that your router’s firewall is also set up correctly How to Configure Your Router to Make Your Home Network Really Secure How to Configure Your Router to Make Your Home Network Really Secure Default router settings put your network at risk, allowing freeloading strangers to squeeze nadwidth and potentially commit crimes. Use our summary to configure your standard router settings to prevent unauthorized access to your network. Read More . On many devices that have been used straight out of the box, this isn’t the case.

Some routers ship with default settings so lax that it is possible for attackers to access devices on your home network Does Your Default Router Configuration Make You Vulnerable to Hackers & Scammers? Does Your Default Router Configuration Make You Vulnerable to Hackers & Scammers? Routers rarely arrive in a secure state, but even if you have taken the time to configure your wireless (or wired) router correctly, it can still prove to be the weak link. Read More without even using a password. It is, therefore, imperative that you spend some time correctly configuring things correctly, consulting the manufacturer’s documentation for the best results.

Anti-Spam Tools will Protect Your Inbox

The explosion of webmail from Gmail and Microsoft Outlook has resulted in fewer people bothering with desktop email apps 5 Of The Best Desktop Email Clients That Don't Cost a Dime [Windows] 5 Of The Best Desktop Email Clients That Don't Cost a Dime [Windows] Specialization is the key to efficiency, especially in the realm of software. Programs that try to "do it all" end up becoming bloated, messy, and subpar in most of what they do. On the other... Read More , which in turn has led to less reliance on anti-spam tools.

After all, Gmail and Outlook will find and block spam and malware, right?

Well, no, not quite. In practice, both systems are prone to letting spam email What Everybody Ought to Know About Dealing With Email Spam What Everybody Ought to Know About Dealing With Email Spam It might be next to impossible to stop spam completely, but it's certainly possible to reduce its flow to a trickle. We outline some of the different measures you can take. Read More  pass through the net, and often these are phishing emails What Exactly Is Phishing & What Techniques Are Scammers Using? What Exactly Is Phishing & What Techniques Are Scammers Using? I’ve never been a fan of fishing, myself. This is mostly because of an early expedition where my cousin managed to catch two fish while I caught zip. Similar to real-life fishing, phishing scams aren’t... Read More . Usually, these are designed by scammers to look as authentic as possible and persuade you with a few official-looking images and words to part with your credentials to PayPal (particularly lucrative for scammers How Scammers Target Your PayPal Account & How To Never Fall For It How Scammers Target Your PayPal Account & How To Never Fall For It PayPal is one of the most important accounts you have online. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge PayPal fan, but when it comes to your money, you don’t want to play around. While... Read More ), eBay, Facebook, and even your online banking account, by forwarding you to a spoof webpage and waiting for you to login. Your credentials are then harvested, and your identity stolen 6 Warning Signs Of Digital Identity Theft You Shouldn't Ignore 6 Warning Signs Of Digital Identity Theft You Shouldn't Ignore Identity theft isn't too rare of an occurrence these days, yet we often fall into the trap of thinking that it'll always happen to "someone else". Don't ignore the warning signs. Read More .

Learning how to spot a malicious email 5 Examples To Help You Spot A Fraud Or Fake Email 5 Examples To Help You Spot A Fraud Or Fake Email The shift from spam to phishing attacks is noticeable, and is on the rise. If there's a single mantra to keep in mind, it's this -- the number one defense against phishing is awareness. Read More is important, but so is employing anti-spam tools on any desktop email app that you use.

Keep Your Hardware & Data Out of Sight

Hardware theft is a continuous problem. Whether you use a smartphone or tablet, or a laptop, there is always a risk that some crook will come along and divorce you from your beloved device Don’t Be A Victim: Practical Tips To Protect Your Smartphone From Theft Don’t Be A Victim: Practical Tips To Protect Your Smartphone From Theft Considering the cost of a new smartphone, most of us are extremely casual about how we treat them. But keeping tabs on your smartphone isn’t difficult. Keeping it safe from the possibility of theft is... Read More , either physically, or with smartphone malware What You Really Need To Know About Smartphone Security What You Really Need To Know About Smartphone Security Read More .

Perhaps the best way to avoid having your data stolen is to keep it out of sight in public. While walking through busy areas, keep your phone in your pocket, and use a Bluetooth earpiece to receive and take calls The Beginner's Guide To Buying The Right Bluetooth Headset The Beginner's Guide To Buying The Right Bluetooth Headset The dirty little secret to buying the perfect Bluetooth headset is that there is no "perfect" headset. Read More (not doing anything to draw attention to yourself would be better, however).

In bars and restaurants, keep your phone in your pocket, not on the table. Text messages don’t have to be read immediately.

If you really do have to use a tablet or laptop in public, make sure you avoid using public Wi-Fi networks 3 Dangers Of Logging On To Public Wi-Fi 3 Dangers Of Logging On To Public Wi-Fi You've heard that you shouldn't open PayPal, your bank account and possibly even your email while using public WiFi. But what are the actual risks? Read More , which are typically unsecure and can harbor malware and attackers ready to sniff your credentials or fool you with a man-in-the-middle attack What Is A Man-In-The-Middle Attack? Security Jargon Explained What Is A Man-In-The-Middle Attack? Security Jargon Explained Read More . Either use a tethered connection to your smartphone’s mobile Internet, or employ VPN software to create a secure link to the Internet How To Set Up A VPN (And Why It's A Good Idea To Use One) How To Set Up A VPN (And Why It's A Good Idea To Use One) Should you be using a VPN? It's quite likely that the answer is yes. Read More  (although be aware of the threat from DNS leaks How DNS Leaks Can Destroy Anonymity When Using a VPN, And How to Stop Them How DNS Leaks Can Destroy Anonymity When Using a VPN, And How to Stop Them When you're trying to stay anonymous online, a VPN is the simplest solution, by masking your IP address, service provider, and location. But a DNS leak can totally undermine the purpose of a VPN... Read More ).

The same applies at home, too. If you need to leave town without your important hardware 6 Places To Hide Your HDDs & Memory Cards When You're Out Of Town 6 Places To Hide Your HDDs & Memory Cards When You're Out Of Town You're going on holiday, leaving your computer and a vast treasure of irreplaceable data behind for a few days. What should you do in case of burglary or worse? Read More , make sure it is secure locked away, or at least hidden.

Prey Your Stolen Hardware Is Found

In the event that your hardware is stolen, your data is at risk. For devices where the data is encrypted How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? Read More (such as the iPhone) you should be fine, as the passcode is needed to unlock and decrypt your data.

To protect your hardware and give you an opportunity to retrieve it, you should install the Prey device protection and recovery solution Use Prey & Never Lose Your Laptop Or Phone Again [Cross-Platform] Use Prey & Never Lose Your Laptop Or Phone Again [Cross-Platform] Here’s the thing about mobile and portable devices: since they aren't tethered to anything, it’s almost too easy to lose them or, worse, have them stolen from right under your nose. I mean, if you... Read More . This is a free app (for up to three devices; paid plans add support for more hardware) that offers versions for Windows, Ubuntu (and other Linux distros) Mac OS X, Android, and iOS.

Once installed, Prey can be used to track your device, as well as remotely instruct it to behave in particular ways to frustrate the thief.

Keep Your Facebook Activity Private

Public settings on Facebook are a security nightmare How Secure Is Facebook, Really? A Roundup Of Breaches & Flaws How Secure Is Facebook, Really? A Roundup Of Breaches & Flaws Facebook, a website which is less than a decade old, now has over a billion users. Those users share a lot of information about their lives. Where they live, who they associate with, what they... Read More . If sharing personal photos and thoughts along with a load of personal information wasn’t bad enough, Facebook also encourages you to share this data with third parties, in the shape of websites, apps, and games.

It is, therefore, a good idea to be familiar with Facebook’s various security settings Make Sure You're Secure With Facebook's New Privacy Settings - A Complete Guide Make Sure You're Secure With Facebook's New Privacy Settings - A Complete Guide Facebook also means two other things: frequent changes and privacy concerns. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Facebook, is that they’re not really concerned about what we like or our privacy. Nor should they... Read More .

At the very least you should be disabling app associations (which you can adjust in Settings > Apps, clicking the X next to each), but for the best results, ensure your default setting for sharing links, photos, and status updates is set to “Friends” rather than “Public”. There are many other ways you can reclaim your privacy from Facebook 8 Things to Do in an Hour to Wrestle Back Privacy from Facebook 8 Things to Do in an Hour to Wrestle Back Privacy from Facebook We all know that Facebook guzzles as much of your information as it can. But how can you get control of your privacy again? Quitting Facebook is an option, but other options are available. Read More .

Actually, scratch that: for the best results, quit Facebook, and don’t go back (although they’ll still be able to track you It Doesn't Matter If You're Not On Facebook: They're Still Tracking You It Doesn't Matter If You're Not On Facebook: They're Still Tracking You A new report claims the Facebook is tracking people without their permission. It doesn't matter if you don't use social networking service: they're still watching you. What can you do about it? Read More ).

Seven is a lucky number, but you don’t need luck to keep your data and personal information safe; you just need to understand the risks and behave appropriately.

How would you add to this list? Do you have a great security habit, trick or tip to share? Give us your suggestions in the comments.

Image Credit: Cyber safety via Shutterstock, A pickpocket with mask via

  1. Eric Stoick
    September 5, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Careful Bruce you have 2 the's in your comment, Russell is watching!

  2. Christian Cawley
    September 3, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Wow, never had to explain a pun before...

  3. likefun butnot
    August 31, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    #8. Block advertisements on any and all electronic devices where you might see them. Advertisements are the primary vector for malware. Ads are what needs to be stopped.

  4. Russell Montgomery
    August 31, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Dude, use a dictionary. Bad use of PREY in "Prey Your Stolen Hardware Is Found" Prey means to seize and devour prey. I think you meant Pray (to offer devout petition, praise, thanks, etc.)

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 31, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Whoops! Not a dictionary problem, just an oversight :) It happens to the best of writers and editors, Russell, let's give this one a pass.

      • fcd76218
        August 31, 2015 at 10:40 pm

        " It happens to the best of writers and editors"
        It mostly happens to writers and editors who only rely on spell checkers. You are not alone. A day doesn't go by that I don't see this problem online and/or in hardcopy press. It's becoming endemic.

        • Mihir Patkar
          September 1, 2015 at 6:38 am

          Hahaha actually, as Bruce pointed out, it was a play on words. I just read the sub-header without reading the actual text. What's your excuse, fcd? ;)

    • Bruce Epper
      August 31, 2015 at 11:34 pm

      Author meant it as a play on words. If you read the section, you will see that it refers the the Prey device recovery/wiping software.

      Although that section should have also mentioned that many security suites offer that type of protection for mobile devices, especially the commercial or paid versions.

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