Top ten safety tips for computer users

The internet and computers have taken on significant roles in nearly everyone’s lives. If you live in the United States, you likely use a laptop or desktop for some aspect of your professional or personal life at least a few times a day.

Even though computers include technology that protects you from cyber threats, you can never be too careful. Between hackers, phishing scams, viruses, blackmailers, and other threats, you can never know when your information may become vulnerable.


The only way you can ensure your safety online is by taking measures ahead of time. The below safety tips will allow you to have a safe, enjoyable, and productive computer-using experience.

Below are the top ten safety tips for computer users.

1. Be Aware of the Dangers

The first step towards taking any precautions online is understanding what you are up against. People often think that hackers and scammers target major corporations or rich people, but that is not always the case.

Many nefarious online actors turn their attention towards ordinary people, as those individuals may not have any measures in place to safeguard their information on digital platforms. An average person may also have less power and influence in pursuing justice if they are the victim of a cyberattack.

2. Perform Regular Software Updates

When your computer, smartphone, or specific programs tell you that it is time to install an update, do not ignore those messages. You should typically wait a week before any update releases, as that gives time for the company to work out any bugs related to the new software. However, you must update your device and programs a week after each update release, as that ensures you have the latest security patches on your system.

3. Avoid Falling for Phishing Scams

Most people who are somewhat computer-literate may know about viruses and the effect of downloading files that are from an unknown source. What they do not realize is that phishing is as much of a danger as downloading a file from a random website.

Phishing often happens through emails and text messages. You may get an email offering you a product, service, discount, or an email claiming to be from another person or organization.

As soon as you see such emails, look at the address bar in your email client to ensure the mail came from an email address you recognize. If it did not, or you have any doubts, delete the email. You can always correspond with that person or company and ask them if they sent you that email.

4. Avoid Clicking Random Links

A lot of websites use ads from agencies that are less than reputable. Unfortunately, ads are the way that sites make money, as most people do not want to pay for access to information through a specific website or news source.

When you are on any website, ensure you are only clicking on appropriate links. Sometimes ads are disguised as links you would think to click on to progress on a page, but they are actually ads that take you to a different website.

You can mitigate this issue by installing an ad-blocker on the web browser of your choosing, such as Ublock Origin or AdBlock.

5. Practice Password Management

Having one password for all your accounts is a big mistake and one that gets a lot of people into trouble anytime there is a data breach at a significant company.

Say you have accounts for Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your local bank, a streaming service, and other websites. If you have the same or very similar passwords for all these sites, you are risking your accounts, as a leak at a single one of these companies could compromise all your data on the internet.

Use a reputable password manager program to manage your passwords and regularly change them as well.

6. Lock Devices When Leaving a Room

Whether you are at home, at the office, or in a public space, you should never leave your devices logged in and unattended.

Say you are at home or in a private space—you should log out of your computer when you step away from the device. You know that no one will steal your laptop, but someone using the computer innocently could compromise your data through a mistaken action.

If you are in a public space, always log out when you are not looking at your computer, and preferably take it with you if you have to leave the immediate area.

7. Protect Your Data

There are methods you can use to encrypt valuable data that you are storing on your computer. That information, such as your social security number, passport or driver’s license numbers or scanned copies, bank information, and credit card details, should be kept in encrypted files that only you can unlock.

8. Install an Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Program

Both viruses and malware can create serious issues when you are attempting to use your computer regularly. Not only do these nefarious programs cause your computer to slow down or develop other problems, but they could be using your internet bandwidth and/or stealing your information.

There are viruses that can even track all your keystrokes without you having any idea that the program is on your system. Either enable the default antivirus on your Windows computer or install one from a third party. Mac users should do the same, although viruses are less of an issue on Macs.

9. Backup Your Information

If you have any data or files on your computer that are valuable, back them up on a physical hard drive or the cloud. You can even do both if you want to be extra careful about preserving specific files.

10. Stay Updated on the Latest News

One of the ways to remain safe online is by reading about the news stories that come out regarding hackers or phishing scams. If there is a significant hack or data breach of a company, you will hear about it in the news or on tech news websites. Keeping updated on such information allows you to quickly protect your accounts by changing passwords or deleting any sensitive data from the account you hold with that company.