Malware is on the rise. And phishing attacks. How about ransomware, data theft, and data breaches? Yup — all on the rise. Not only are cybersecurity attacks and vulnerabilities on the rise, but their impact also costs more, takes longer to recover from, and can be extremely damaging.
With that bleak outlook in mind, it is high time for you to consider your system security. There are so many anti-this and anti-that programs out there it is difficult separating the security wheat from the cyber chaff.
If you’re confused about security apps, you need this guide. If you don’t know how to protect your computer, you need this guide. We’ll show you how to comprehensively secure your computer and a little more for good measure.
7. Backup Tools
1. Things You Need
What do you actually need to protect a modern computer? Well, those requirements vary by device and operating system. The vast majority of devices need at least an antivirus suite. Some require more, while others are largely secure with a single app (and some end-user knowledge).
Windows devices usually have multiple vulnerabilities and as such require antivirus, antimalware, and a good clean now and then. (Conversely, Linux devices have fewer vulnerabilities and attract fewer attackers — they still need an antivirus suite though!)
Here’s an important antivirus tip: you don’t need more than one antivirus suite. More than one suite causes issues and will expose you. Doubling down doesn’t double your protection. There are, however, numerous security apps of different varieties that do work well together.
Every Windows device should have an antivirus suite installed. Windows Defender Security Center is the default Windows 10 antivirus and, to be fair to Microsoft, it is more effective than ever. But it isn’t the best. It’ll do in a pinch, but otherwise, you need to check out one of the paid or free antivirus options below.
Bitdefender consistently features at the top of “best of” antivirus lists. And for good reason. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus provides some of the most comprehensive protection without impacting system performance.
The comprehensive protection keeps you safe from a huge range of vulnerabilities and attack vectors. Worried about online banking? Bitdefender grants extra encryption and security. Terrified of ransomware? Bitdefender features multi-layer ransomware protection. Furthermore, the Bitdefender UI is extremely user-friendly, more-so than the vast majority of its competitors.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2018 retails at $59.99 for a single year’s license.
Kaspersky Lab and its antivirus suite receive a huge amount of negative press, both in the U.S. and the U.K. In fact, in 2017, both governments issued warnings against using Kaspersky security products (and Russian developed security products in general, for that matter). We’re not so sure at MakeUseOf. The government advises its agencies, contractors, and employees against using it. But for home users, Kaspersky Anti-Virus is an excellent, well-priced suite.
Like Bitdefender, Kaspersky antivirus products consistently feature at the top of “best of” lists. Kaspersky Total Security has an excellent malware and ransomware detection and removal rate. In fact, the Cryptomalware Protection system is one of the best consumer ransomware protection products (as part of a suite). Better still, Kaspersky registers less false positives than almost every other antivirus suite.
Kaspersky Total Security has a small performance trade-off, especially when compared to the almost negligible Bitdefender. That said, it is still negligible, and powerful machines will shrug it off. The Kaspersky UI is extremely easy to use, too.
Kaspersky Total Security retails at $99.99 for a single year’s license, with coverage for up to five devices.
From two comprehensive antivirus suites to one of the fastest, smallest antivirus programs. Webroot Antivirus is the fastest scanner of all, consistently clocking in ahead of Trend Micro, Norton, Kaspersky, and the rest. Also, it is tiny. The Webroot installation directory takes up just 15MB, compared to an average of 500MB for its competitors.
But size doesn’t matter. It is what you scan with it. And Webroot packs a serious amount of protection into its tiny package. Webroot Antivirus Security is the basic package, offering additional identity theft protection, webcam protection, banking and phishing protection, as well as excellent customer support.
If you are running an older machine but still want comprehensive protection, give Webroot a try. (Their other, bulked out security products are also excellent.)
Webroot Antivirus Security retails at $39.99 for a single year’s license for a single device.
Unhappy about the thought of dropping north of 40 bucks to secure your devices? There are free options available. Avast Free Antivirus is one of the best free options available. Avast Free Antivirus scores extremely well on detection and removal rates, and now features password management, a resource-saving gaming mode, and an updated heuristic program scanning tool.
Overall, Avast is simply one of the best free antivirus options out there, and you’d be somewhat foolish to ignore it. Its extremely easy to use, too.
2.5 Sophos Home
Our antivirus lineup terminates with Sophos Home. Like Avast, Sophos Home delivers a really excellent level of protection for a free antivirus suite. Sophos Home offers one “killer” free feature: content control across devices. Install Sophos Home on your kid’s devices, and you can control their content from afar.
Sophos Home offers additional browser protection against phishing, amongst other tools. One downside is integrated adverts, but they’re not so persistent to become a serious irritant.
2.6 Antivirus Roundup
There are so many threats out there. Luckily, our choice of great antivirus suites has never been better. The paid for options offer comprehensive security coverage against a truly massive range of attack vectors. And if you don’t want to shell out, the free options will give you serious peace of mind, especially if you were using nothing before.
The efficacy of antivirus divides the security industry. Some believe that keeping your system updated, removing old programs, and keeping your system free of multi-vulnerability targets like Java or Flash should suffice (along with regular scanning, and an antimalware suite).
At MakeUseOf, we advise having something installed. Because traversing the internet without any protection is, well, stupid. In that sense, if you don’t want to introduce a third-party program to your system, Windows Defender does an excellent job, even more so if you combine it with one of the following antimalware products.
Anti-malware products are a product category of their own. There are, however, less dedicated anti-malware programs to choose from. Well, less to choose from that perform an excellent job, each and every time.
There is one program that you’ll find on almost every single antimalware list: Malwarebytes. Malwarebytes for Windows (formerly Malwarebytes Anti-Malware) is one of the grandfathers of modern system security. It is well respected, constantly updated, and has excellent detection and removal rates.
Malwarebytes comes in two flavors: Free or Premium. The major difference between the two is live system scanning. Malwarebytes Premium actively scans and protects your system, while the Free version is for remediation only. If you’re looking to build a robust defense barrier, Malwarebytes Premium is an excellent choice.
Malwarebytes Premium currently retails for $39.99 for a single year’s license.
If you don’t like Malwarebytes, I would advise giving Zemana AntiMalware a try. Like Malwarebytes, Zemana comes in Free and Premium flavors. The Free version features a pretty fast system scan (system dependent, of course, but it seems to be consistently speedy), the choice of either Smart or Deep scanning, and will attack advanced threats like bootkits and rootkits.
If you want full system real-time protection, you’ll need the Premium version. Zemana Premium features additional protection modules for ransomware, zero-day exploits, and more. If you find a particularly difficult to remove malware variant, Zemana engineers are on call 24/7 to offer advice. In fact, they have been known to remote connect to a compromised system to manually remove an infection.
Zemana Premium currently retails for $24.95 for a single year’s license.
Our final antimalware program is HitmanPro. HitmanPro is a “secondary antivirus scanner.” That means it works alongside your existing antivirus to catch and remove anything that slips through the net. And HitmanPro is really good at doing just that. I use HitmanPro every time someone gives me their infected laptop. After scanning with an antivirus program, then an antimalware program, HitmanPro catches anything lurking in the dark corners of the system.
It is powerful, has an extremely easy-to-use interface, and is lightweight. HitmanPro.Alert is the premium version. As well as offering real-time protection, ransomware protection, and banking protection, HitmanPro.Alert has a particularly good success rate regarding bootkits and rootkits when compared to its competitors. These represent some of the nastier infections in the current malware landscape and HitmanPro.Alert is one of the best preventative tools available.
HitmanPro.Alert current retails for $34.95 for a single year’s license.
3.4 Antimalware Roundup
Malware has become the coverall term for malicious computer activity. It hasn’t quite replaced virus in the common lexicon, but we use it interchangeably. These programs, however, are not antivirus suites. They are specific antimalware programs that search and destroy the ever-growing threat list. Did you know that more malware was created in the second half of 2017 than in all time the previous to it?
That’s why you need an antimalware program.
Firewalls have become somewhat unfashionable of late. They don’t have the same cutting-edge, search and obliterate characteristics of antivirus and antimalware programs. They do, however, perform an incredibly important role in computer security. And it is usually one that you are not aware of — until your firewall fails, and you’re scrambling for a security solution.
4.1 Windows Firewall
You don’t really need anything but the integrated Windows Firewall. A firewall essentially opens and closes ports. The Windows Firewall does exactly this, lets you create rules, control which ports are in use and, best of all, leaks very little information to the outside world.
Windows security products took a bit of a bashing throughout the late 90s and 2000s. But the integrated Windows Firewall is consistent, uses very few resources, and is extremely easy to configure. Plus, there are numerous tutorials on configurations for almost any program. If you have a problem, there is a strong chance someone else has already encountered it, solved it, and posted their results on the internet.
ZoneAlarm remains one of the best free firewall options for Windows users. There is also a premium ZoneAlarm version that features many more options than its free counterpart. The free version is sufficient for the majority of people, though. Unfortunately, in recent years, the free version has seen some useful features stripped back in favor of paid subscriptions.
Nonetheless, as an entry point into firewalls, ZoneAlarm Free is still a great choice.
GlassWire is a cool firewall-cum-system monitoring tool. For a long time, internet and computer security was green text on black backgrounds and other poorly considered UIs. GlassWire didn’t change this, but the UI and overall resource display are delightful, making spotting and shutting down incoming issues a visual pleasure.
GlassWire is a mixture of both worlds. You probably don’t interact with your regular firewall. That’s good — it means it is doing its job. But GlassWire gives you the opportunity to spot a sudden surge in system activity, identify what’s causing it, and close the process, port, or internet connection before it escalates.
4.4 Firewall Roundup
Do you need a third-party firewall? Honestly, I don’t think you do. Windows Firewall is still an excellent choice. It is fully integrated with your operating system, updates automatically, notifies you of issues, and more. If you do want some additional functionality check out the other options, but be sure to properly configure them. You could create a large issue without realizing.
Along with antivirus and anti-malware programs, specialized anti-ransomware programs are increasing in popularity. While antivirus and anti-malware tools usually feature their own ransomware scanning and prevention, anti-ransomware developers contend that their tools update faster, cover broader ransomware definitions, and offer better overall protection in a multi-layer security solution.
Cybereason’s RansomFree is one of those awesome tools everyone should have a copy of. Developed by a company full of elite former military security experts (from the renown Israeli Unit 8200), RansomFree is a powerful layer of protection against the myriad potent ransomware variants in the wild.
RansomFree keeps you safe by analyzing files for suspicious behavior. If the suspicious behavior is symptomatic of ransomware, the RansomFree immediate quarantines the file and your system is safe. To further secure the system, RansomFree places strategic bait files in critical folders. If an infection takes the bait, it is shut down.
Simply put, RansomFree is one of the best anti-ransomware options available to home users (and small business users).
The Malwarebytes name is synonymous with security. Many of the extensive list of Malwarebytes for Windows (linked to earlier in the guide) features start life as beta testing products — anti-ransomware is just the latest step. Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware specifically monitors your system for known ransomware activity, blocking infections and quarantining infected files before system files are encrypted.
At the current time, Anti-Ransomware should not run alongside the free version of Malwarebytes for Windows. Both programs use similar resources, causing a clash. The Premium version is fine, however.
Kaspersky also has a vested interest in stopping ransomware. The Kaspersky antivirus suite is excellent. But their Anti-Ransomware tool adds an additional layer of security that puts many other options to shame. Kaspersky Lab is well known for its active approach to ransomware. Along with this free anti-ransomware tool, Kaspersky also develops and release ransomware decryption tools where possible.
As with Malwarebytes, you don’t need the main security suite to secure your system against ransomware better.
5.4 Antiransomware Roundup
Ransomware is undoubtedly one of the most troubling recent developments in security. As anyone who crosses path with a ransomware infection will tell you, it isn’t nice losing access to all of your files. Especially when there is potentially no way of recovering them. Anti-ransomware tools are finding their way into antivirus products. But there is no harm in introducing another security layer from a reputable developer.
6. Browser Security
Internet browsers are central to our daily online activity. You can probably count the days of the year you don’t use a browser at some point on your fingers. Shopping, banking, entertainment, socializing — internet browsers have it all.
At the same time, browsers are vulnerable. They have issues, are exploited by hackers and, as the portal to a vast amount of private data, are under near-constant attack. Phishing and other fraudulent attacks rose throughout 2017, malvertising campaigns saw increases, and cryptojacking became a growing issue.
At some point, we made a collective decision that we like free internet content and services. The consequence of that is advertising, almost everywhere. Unfortunately, some advertising services are more pervasive than others, while others deliver malicious content. Then there are the trackers, following us around the internet, creating unique advertising profiles that we have no chance of altering or deleting.
6.1 Scripts, Blockers, and Encryption
Several blockers make a serious difference to your overall internet security. I’m going to list them along with the browsers they operate in.
uBlock Origin is now one of the single best blockers out there. It comes with numerous inbuilt lists that block known malicious ad servers, malicious scripts, trackers, and more. It is easy to add and remove lists as you see fit, and the blocking lists regularly update with new targets.
uMatrix is similar to uBlock Origin but allows for granular blocking of specific types of content on individual domains. For instance, you could block certain cookies from a site, while still accessing media content. uMatrix also features integrated user agent control and referral types.
Disconnect gives users a visual representation of exactly who and what is attempting to connect to their browser. By routing all of the user’s traffic through an encrypted tunnel, Disconnect allows us to pick and choose the advertising, analytics, social, and content requests that arrive in our browser.
Disconnect is, however, a VPN in its own right. That means it doesn’t always work with your regular VPN, so you might want to choose a different option from the list.
NoScript and ScriptSafe
NoScript is a pre-emptive malicious script-blocking app, available for Firefox.
SciptSafe, inspired by NoScript, is available for Chrome. It isn’t quite the same, as Chrome’s development style doesn’t allow the same functionality as NoScript. It is still a handy tool, nonetheless.
HTTPS is slowly becoming the de facto internet security standard. But there are a huge number of sites out there that don’t use it. Some simply don’t need it, but you’ll still stumble across others that really could use the extra protection — and your private data needs it, too. HTTPS Everywhere forces websites to use the HTTPS protocol at all times, protecting your data wherever you go.
Safari users should try and use DuckDuckGo, which redirects users to the HTTPS version of a site. Alternatively, try SSL Always, via the Mack Kung Fu blog. A Microsoft Edge HTTPS Everywhere port is underway.
6.2 Password Managers
I’m only dedicating a small segment to password managers. We have covered password managers extensively — but I’ll give you the best three to consider.
LastPass remains one of the best password management options for many users. It is easy to use, offers a secure vault for password storage, and is priced extremely competitively. Better still, you don’t even have to drop the $24 a year for a premium subscription. The free version features almost as many features.
Dashlane is LastPass’s biggest competitor, offering some of the best password management security available. This is achieved by way of its internally developed and patented security system. Dashlane also features a great UI that is extremely easy to manage. But Dashlane’s best feature is the bulk password changer. You can easily reset hundreds of passwords at once in a post-breach situation.
Dashlane currently retails for $39.96.
KeePass is an open-source password management solution. Rather than a multi-device, cloud storage approach, KeePass stores and encrypts your data locally. On the one hand, this is great. You don’t have to trust your internet connection to access your password vault, and so on. Conversely, you need to install KeePass on whichever device you’re using, making it a slightly slower process than its competitors. There are also heaps of plugins to extend the functionality of KeePass.
6.3 Browser Security Roundup
Blockers are contentious. Advertising pays for the vast majority of internet content. It pays for the guide you’re reading right now, and the rest of the awesome content you enjoy on MUO. As such, we never advise anyone to go out and block everything.
As the lash back against pervasive advertising continues, sites (like MUO) are using sympathetic advertising to generate revenue. This allows readers to keep enjoying their favorite content but not feel utterly bombarded by intrusive advertisements.
There are, however, instances where using a blocker is the only thing that works. I’ve seen more than enough malicious ads shut down by my blocker of choice. And with active whitelisting, you ensure the sites you care about — like MUO — receive advertising revenue while keeping the nasty ads out.
Regarding password managers, each option comes with benefits. As most have a free option, or at least a free trial, test them and see what suits your needs. And if you need to migrate your password list, we’ve got you covered.
7. Backup Tools
Along with preventative and protective software, you need to take regular system backups. Windows 10 has an integrated but basic backup service. Also, it is easy to confuse system backup with system imaging, and again with system restore points. (Check out our massive guide to Windows backups!)
- System Image: An exact copy of an entire drive. A system image can be used to restore the computer to the moment the image was taken. System images are generally stored on the same system, ready for use, but can also export to removable media.
- System Restore Point: Your system periodically creates System Restore points. If you encounter a major issue and can remember the last good working configuration, rolling back to a restore point is a good option.
- Full Backup: A full backup is usually a compressed offline copy of an entire system or select parts of a system.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the best backup tools.
7.1 Cobian Backup
Cobian Backup is one of the best free backup tools on offer. If you want local or FTP backups, Cobian offers a range of advanced features that are largely easy to use. You can create a full backup, incremental backup, or differential backup, as well as setting the level of compression. Furthermore, you can create regular backup schedules and define the number of backups to keep before deleting old ones.
The Cobian Backup interface is relatively simple, and the program is full of helpful tooltips if you get lost along the way.
If you prefer a cloud backup option, consider Backblaze. BackBlaze consistently rates amongst the best cloud backup solution. And, now that CrashPlan is slowly shutting down and disappearing, BackBlaze represents the best value cloud backup solution.
BackBlaze is lightweight and features a minimalist UI that helps users find their way around. For most users, continuous backup is the best option. This means your backup is updated every time you make a change to or add a file to your system. While this sounds like it will drain system resources, it really doesn’t. Creating your initial backup should be the only time you notice Backblaze whirring up. Otherwise, it silently lurks in the background, taking care of business.
Backblaze currently retails for $50 for a single year’s license for a single device. This includes unlimited data.
The Google Drive app is now known as Backup & Sync, and it features a nice new interface with a few extra tools. Your Google Drive account data limit is 15GB unless you have an unlimited account. Still, that 15GB is a great place to backup some of your vital files to on a regular basis.
The desktop app still integrates with Windows Explorer but also features an updated interface for easy browsing. Backup and Sync also merges with the Google Photos Syncing app so that you can manage your photos from the same desktop app.
7.4 Backup Tools Roundup
You have three excellent choices for offline, cloud, and partial system backups. Creating backups is a vital part of any security routine, even more so since the advent of system-crippling ransomware attacks.
There are major benefits to both offline and cloud storage solutions, not least of all their connectivity. Many users find it prudent to use both options to maximize their potential for recovery.
8. Disk Encryption Tools
Next up, we consider the best tools for disk encryption. Disk encryption has made the news repeatedly after government agencies have struggled to access data on suspect devices. More and more “regular” users realize their data needs serious protection and understand full disk encryption is an excellent option.
One of the best full disk encryption options is BitLocker. If you have Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education, you have BitLocker installed. It is just a matter of firing it up and learning how to use it. Unfortunately, Windows 10 Home users must use one of the (also excellent) alternatives below.
BitLocker is great for a couple of reasons. One, it is fully integrated with your existing operating system. This alleviates issues regarding third-party software vulnerabilities. Second, it uses powerful encryption to keep your files completely secure, and you can select from a range unlock options too.
There are several free alternatives to BitLocker. Perhaps the best known is VeraCrypt, built from the ashes of depreciated encryption tool, TrueCrypt. VeraCrypt is full of handy tools. These include virtual encrypted disk creation and mounting, full drive or partition encryption, and pre-boot authentication.
VeraCrypt gives users a wider range of encryption options than BitLocker. It has a choice of hashing algorithms too. If you’re not upgrading to Windows 10 Pro, VeraCrypt is absolutely the way to go. In fact, even if you do have BitLocker, still consider VeraCrypt’s advanced options. After all, it’s free.
Jetico is one of the best paid full disk encryption options on the market. It encrypts a huge range of volume types, including RAID drives, as well as offering pre-boot authentication (with awesome customizable text, too). Another useful option is only to boot selected encrypted volumes within a trusted network. That keeps your drive locked down unless connected to a predefined safe network.
Jetico BestCrypt Volume Encryption currently retails for $119.99 for a single year’s license.
8.4 Full Disk Encryption Roundup
These three programs will give you all the encryption you need. BitLocker and VeraCrypt are both fantastic free encryption options, featuring a range of advanced tools that will stop even the most ardent attacker breaking into your private data. Just remember to keep your security keys somewhere of equal security — after all, you could become your own worst enemy if not.
9. The Best of the Rest
We’ve covered antivirus, antimalware, firewalls, and much more. But there are still more security programs to cover. This last section contains those programs every user should know about but aren’t always necessary to install. Knowing of their existence, however, could save your bacon further down the line, so give them a look over.
That said, other tools are just really useful, like Unchecky. Check out the full list below.
9.1 General Security
These programs work in the background of your computer and assist with your overall security.
Unchecky is an absolute system-saver in a time where many software installations come bundled with third-party extras that you neither want or need. And in some cases, the third-party extras are downright malicious. Install Unchecky, and it’ll make sure each potentially nefarious extra box remains unchecked unless you specifically select it.
This tiny program has stopped more than a few unwanted extras over the years for me.
Premium Malwarebytes for Windows users already have this integrated Anti-Exploit tool — but those without, don’t. Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Beta is still available for download for everyone else, offering much of the same premium functionality offered to paying subscribers.
Here’s five more tools to protect you from zero-day exploits and more.
Parted Magic with GParted is a bootable Linux environment featuring one of the best secure wipe and erase tools around. Unlike many similar products, Parted uses the BIOS-only accessible Secure Erase function. You’ve never noticed this function because many manufacturers turn it off and hide the option because it simply obliterates your system. (Seriously, it writes zeroes to your entire drive making data essentially irretrievable.)
The Disk Eraser comes with a few options, including shredding, wiping Master Boot Records, and more. This is a powerful tool that will destroy your data. Do not use it unless you’re 100 percent sure you’ve backed up your important files. They’re not coming back. Secure Erase also works with SSDs.
Secure Erase currently retails for $11.
Gpg4win brings one of the best secure communication tools to Windows. GnuPG is an implementation of the OpenPGP standard primarily used to encrypt electronic communications. Once you install Gpg4win, you’ll spot an option to encrypt your messages within your email client. Here’s how it appears in Outlook, for instance.
9.2 Ransomware Tools
Use these ransomware tools alongside the antiransomware programs listed above. Some of them are for specific issues. I’ll also list the five best resources to find ransomware decryption tools.
The Trend Micro Ransomware Screen Unlocker is, well, just that. Several ransomware variants lock your screen. The ransomware demands payment to unlock your system. Lock screen ransomware is usually the “nicer” of the two major ransomware variants (the other is the system-wide file encrypting variety).
The tool works in two scenarios:
- Scenario 1: Lock Screen ransomware is blocking “normal mode,” but “safe mode” with networking is still accessible.
- Scenario 2: Lock Screen ransomware is blocking both “normal mode” and “safe mode” with networking
Full instructions are available on the Trend Micro site.
Most ransomware variants announce their presence after encrypting your files, along with their name, via a ransom note. If that doesn’t happen, you need to upload an encrypted file to ID Ransomware (the site also accepts ransom notes or hyperlinks included in the ransom).
The site will quickly identify the infection.
5 Decryption Tool Lists
Once you know what you’re facing, you can find a tool to try and fix the damage. I’ve compiled a list of the best places to find ransomware decryptors. We’ve got a list of our own too.
- The No More Ransom Project
- Kaspersky Lab Free Ransomware Decryptors
- Avast Free Ransomware Decryptors
- Fight Ransomware List of Decryption Tools (super list)
- WatchPoint Decryptors Collection (super list)
The awesome people over at The No More Ransom Project unlock upwards of 25,000 computers a year at the moment. They know what they’re doing!
9.3 DNS Alternatives
The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical naming system that connects numerical IP addresses to their easy-to-understand domain names. If you rent your router, or your ISP provides it for free, it will usually connect to the ISP default settings. But that doesn’t mean you have to stick to their default DNS settings. Several alternative DNS services are both faster and more secure.
This is an easy way to make your internet connection a little bit safer. OpenDNS features active phishing protection, will block known malvertising and malware domains and is easily extended to the whole family. Unfortunately, there is a slight downside to OpenDNS. The company stores your DNS and IP address information to catalog “what content is effective.”
So while you are more secure, your privacy is still somewhat (though less-so) up for grabs.
A switch to Google Public DNS absolutely brings faster browsing speeds. Google Public DNS is the largest DNS service in the world, serving over 400 billion requests per day. The sheer volume and global coverage means a Google DNS server is always nearby.
A truly security and privacy-focused service, DNS Watch offers several features that set it apart from Google Public DNS and OpenDNS. For instance, DNS Watch Privacy Protection ensures there is no request logging. Similarly, DNS Watch is committed to keeping your data private, meaning it will not be sold to any third-party advertisers or otherwise.
DNSCrypt is a network protocol that encrypts traffic between your system and your DNS service of choice. Even when using a VPN or HTTPS, the domain name needs to resolve using a DNS query. At times, this process is hijacked and used maliciously. DNSCrypt authenticates communication between the DNS client and the DNS server, ensuring nothing tampers with the DNS resolution.
9.4 Secure Browsers
Beefing up your browser security is an excellent security boost. But some browsers already combine many of the most important security features into a single package, with some extras, too. Some mainstream browser alternatives are slightly slower than your regular browser, so bear that in mind.
Tor is an interconnected network of anonymous nodes that allow users a significant amount of anonymity. It essentially encrypts your communication as it passes from one connected node to another. You will have spotted Tor in the news — it is regularly portrayed as the playground of hackers, cybercriminals, and terrorists.
Tor is more than that. In a world where surveillance is vast, and privacy is constantly eroding, Tor provides respite. And while Tor is portrayed as the gateway to a world of illicit activity, it is also a vital tool for journalists, activists, and other individuals who demand private and secure communication. And there are some sites you might actually like!
The Tor Browser is the easiest way to use the Tor network. It is infinitely more accessible than in its early days and, so long as you don’t mess with any settings, your browser traffic will be secure after installation. However, Tor isn’t a VPN. Your system network traffic isn’t encrypted, just Tor Browser traffic.
Sounds good? Check out my Unofficial User’s Guide to Tor — it is a great introduction to the browser and protocol.
Epic Browser doesn’t feature a built-in underground network. But it does turn off and filter out the numerous scripts and trackers that compromise your security. Furthermore, it doesn’t save your history, doesn’t allow DNS pre-fetching, there is no web or DNS cache, and no auto-fill feature.
I really like the open source Brave browser. For a start, it is fast, making it an ideal switch for those clunking around with a mainstream alternative. Brave also does an excellent job of blocking scrips, ad trackers, and more. It features a neat new tab background displaying the number of trackers and ads blocked, along with the browsing time saved.
Brave is actively developed by a passionate community that truly believes in protecting privacy and increasing security. Oh, it also features integrated HTTPS Everywhere, too.
9.5 Security Courses for Beginners
There are two single factors in every security scenario: the user, and the computer. In many cases, the user isn’t entirely at fault. But if you’ve become the family security expert, you’ll know the “user factor” is draining and all-too-real. Network administrators worldwide share your pain.
As such, education is something we advocate at MakeUseOf. Just a little bit of security information goes a long way, even in a shifting environment. Here are five free courses for beginners you can take yourself, or casually send to the rest of the family.
- Heimdal Cyber Security for Beginners
- FutureLearn Introduction to Cyber Security
- FutureLearn Cyber Security: Safety at Home, Online, In Life
- Udemy Cyber Security for Beginners
- Coursera Cybersecurity and Its Ten Domains
10. Security Tool Roundup
We are at the end of the line, friend. Hopefully, you have constructed a multilayered security wall for your system. The important thing is not to panic. Yes, there are a huge amount of threats out there. Yes, they are getting worse as our dependence on computers grows. No, you shouldn’t disconnect from everything ever and live in a cave.
Another great resource is my complete malware removal guide. It will help you overcome the vast majority of infections. Combined with this guide, you’ll boost your security knowledge immeasurably.
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