How To Protect Your Computer From Viruses, Hackers, And Surveillance

Steps to secure your operating systems, whether Windows, Mac, or GNU/Linux.

Is your computer safe? How can you protect your operating system? Should you cover your laptop camera?

In this article, we teach you how to secure your device, whether you are a Windows user or a Mac user. Or you run GNU/Linux on your system.

An operating system is an interface between software and hardware. It performs various tasks such as file management, process management and memory management.

Windows Security

Windows OS, run by Microsoft, collects tons of personal data about its user. If you are a staunch privacy advocate, it isn't the ideal operating system for you. Because Windows is not open-source, you cannot know what goes on behind the scenes. Still, if you want to be more secure on windows, there are a few methods that you can follow.

Encryption - For any operating system, we recommend full disk encryption. To secure your files with encryption on Windows, you can use Bitlocker. Or Veracrypt for added security.

Password Managers - To store your passwords. You can read more about them here.

Cleaner - When you delete a file on your recycle bin, it doesn't mean it can't be recovered. Your deleted data can be brought back to life by recovery software. Software like Bleachbit, makes it really hard for others to recover bits and pieces of your deleted data.

Safe Browsing - For safe browsing, we recommend the Tor Browser. You can read more about anonymity here. You can also use other browsers with add-ons.

Privacy settings - There are always some settings you can change to give you added privacy. Go to Settings > Privacy to make changes.

System updates - Periodical Windows updates take time but are necessary. System updates come with patches that address security vulnerabilities and other software.

Antivirus - An antivirus should be your last option when it comes to security on Windows. An antivirus software just checks the list of previously found viruses in the database. It cannot detect newly-written viruses or malicious programs. Windows Defender provides reasonable security.

Mac OS Security

Mac Operating Systems are a little more secure and private compared to Windows. A Mac OS offers Terminal, which is similar to the command line interface on GNU/Linux. Even though Macs are generally secure, we see new vulnerabilities emerging every day. You can protect your Mac by using many of the same steps you would use on Windows:

Encryption - For any operating system, full disk encryption is highly recommended. You can use Veracrypt for more security.

Password Managers - To store your passwords. You can read more about them here.

Cleaner - Even when you delete a file or send it to Trash, it can still be recovered. You can bring your deleted data back to life by using recovery software. You can use software like Bleachbit to wipe out your data clean. This makes it hard for anyone to recover bits and pieces of your data.

Safe Browsing - For safe browsing, we recommend the Tor Browser. You can read more about anonymity here. You can also use other browsers with add-ons.

Privacy Settings - Navigate through to Settings and turn off your location and sharing when you don't need it.

GNU/Linux

For both privacy and security, GNU/Linux is better than Windows or Mac. It doesn't collect your personal information and it's secure. GNU/Linux distributions are not complex anymore.

Many of you might have heard of 'Linux' as a virus-free operating system. But Linux is not an OS, it is a kernel.

Linux is largely virus-free, but it is not impenetrable. It is vulnerable to bugs and viruses, relatively fewer when compared to Mac and Windows.

GNU/Linux comes in various flavours or distributions. Almost all the distributions are privacy-friendly. Just like with other operating systems, you can use password managers, encryption tools and add-ons for an extra layer of security. Always update your system.

Linux distributions offer full-disk encryption for your machine. Here is a list of secure GNU/Linux distributions.

Fedora
https://getfedora.org/


Debian
https://www.debian.org


Qubes OS - Security focused OS
https://www.qubes-os.org/


Tails - Tor focused OS
https://tails.boum.org/

Should I tape my laptop?

In 2016, a photograph of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with his laptop went viral. Why? Because his laptop camera was covered by tape.

Should you tape your laptop camera? It depends on your threat model, operating system, system updates, internet hygiene and so on. In most cases, your system can be controlled remotely by a hacker sitting in another corner of the world. This can happen when your system is infected by malicious code physically or through a network. Your job is to consider security measures and not let anyone use your system without your consent or authorization.

So it's up to you to cover your cam or not. We recommend that you cover your camera when you're not using it. Who knows, big brother might be watching you!

This article is part of a series on digital literacy titled Digital Buddhi, aimed at helping you be safe online.

Amoghavarsha is a digital investigator and a journalist.

Updated On: 2021-07-19T17:35:13+05:30
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