Powering over 76% of desktops and laptops globally, Microsoft Windows is the most popular desktop operating system. Microsoft’s dominance in the PC market is both a blessing and a curse. Device security is a huge problem for Windows-powered devices. See, because of the ubiquity of Windows PCs, the majority of malware and subsequent attacks target Windows users.
It’s, however, good to note that Microsoft is working hard to improve security on Windows devices. Windows 10, which is the newest version of the popular desktop operating system, comes with plenty of built-in security protections to help users protect their devices from a wide range of cyber threats, including malware, phishing, and other online attacks.
Let’s look at some of the most common threats facing Windows users and the steps you can take to protect your Windows PC. Read on.
Risks Facing PC Users
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, an unprecedented number of employees have been forced to work from home. As a result, working from home has become a gateway to new forms of data theft and other malicious activity. Naturally, Windows users are at a higher risk of attack compared to macOS and Linux users.
This section focuses on the most common security risks Windows users face to help you familiarize yourself with the threat landscape and defend yourself better. Take a look.
Phishing attacks use email and other digital messaging forms to trick unsuspecting users into surrendering personal details like credit card information and login credentials or installing malware into their computers. Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with sophisticated phishing scams that aid in financial fraud and data breaches.
Malware is among the most common threats facing Windows users. Any program designed to install on your computer without your knowledge falls under the malware category. Malware creates a backdoor to your system, eventually leading to data theft or other severe attacks. Malware is commonly spread through phishing and email scams.
Personal information and user accounts are prime targets for cybercriminals. The most common targets include login credentials for email accounts, social media profiles, and online financial services. Cybercriminals like to target this information because it’s easier to monetize. For instance, they can use stolen credit card information to rack up fraudulent charges.
One of the most damaging cybersecurity threats at the moment is ransomware. In a ransomware attack, hackers take the victim’s data and encrypt it. The attackers hold system files for ransom, threatening to permanently block or delete the data if the ransom is not paid. Ransomware attacks target personal data with sentimental value or important legal documents.
Advertising is the financial backbone of the World Wide Web. However, it’s also a major security concern as far as Windows users are concerned. There are two major issues to worry about when it comes to online advertising; privacy and malware. Websites provide a significant amount of user data to online advertisers.
This information is used to track the user and show customized ads. A lot of people don’t want their site visits to be tracked across multiple sites. In addition to privacy violations, online ads are also used to spread malware. This form of attack is known as Malvertising. Attackers use ad traffic to redirect users to websites that download malware on their computers.
How to Protect Your Windows PC?
As a Windows user, there’s a wide range of cyber threats targeting your device. The good news is that there are steps you can take to make Windows 10 PC more secure in your daily use. Here is what you can do to safeguard your Windows laptop or desktop computer from the threats mentioned above.
Use Strong Passwords
When it comes to unauthorized access to your PC, the password is your first line of defense. If you have a weak password, hackers can easily break into your computer and steal your data. Using strong, unique passwords for your computer and online accounts is one of the most effective ways to keep the data stored on your PC safe.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Activate two-factor authentication (2-FA) on your Windows PC to add an extra layer of security. Using 2-FA can help prevent hackers from gaining access to your computer. To set up 2-FA on your Windows PC, you will have to install Microsoft Authenticator on your smartphone. Go to Advanced Security Settings and choose Configure Two-Step Verification to enable 2-FA.
Install a VPN
A Virtual Private Network, often abbreviated as VPN, is an online service that allows you to keep your online activity private and anonymous through encryption. Using a VPN service to encrypt your traffic is crucial when using a public Wi-Fi network to connect to the internet. Free public Wi-Fi networks are notorious hiding places for hackers and other online criminals who can exploit lax security measures to steal sensitive data.
Use Antivirus Software
Reliable antivirus software will protect your device against the different variants of malicious software, including ransomware. It’s essential to have more than one layer of protection as hackers increasingly use sophisticated attack methods to avoid detection. Choose antivirus software with features such as real-time scanning, automatic updates, and a firewall.
Use Windows Mail App for Your Emails
Phishing is the leading cause of cyberattacks in the world. This attack starts with an email that compels the recipient to provide sensitive information to the attackers. Windows comes with built-in phishing protections on native email applications such as Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail. If you are using any of these apps, you will get an alert when a potential phishing email is detected.
Encrypt Your Files With Device Encryption or Bitlocker
Encryption scrambles data and makes it unintelligible. It’s one of the most effective defenses against data breaches as it renders sensitive information useless if it falls in the hands of hackers or any other threat actors. Protect the data on your hard drive with Device Encryption (Windows 10 home users) or Bitlocker (Windows 10 Pro users).
Enable Windows Firewall
Putting your Windows PC behind a firewall is an effective way to ward off external threats. A firewall monitors both the incoming and outgoing traffic on your PC and blocks incoming traffic from suspicious sources. Windows Defender Firewall, the OS’s built-in firewall, is pretty good at keeping malware and hackers from invading your device through your internet connection.
Keep Your Windows PC Up to Date
The single most important thing you can do to keep your Windows 10 computer secure is to ensure that it’s up to date at all times. Most of these updates are bug fixes and security patches intended to remove vulnerabilities that could give hackers a backdoor to your system. Windows 10 is set to check and install updates automatically; all you need is a working internet connection.
Microsoft is by far the most common desktop operating system in the world. The popularity of the OS makes it a target for cybercrime. In terms of ROI, it makes sense for hackers to focus their efforts on Windows PCs. Fortunately, Windows users can significantly reduce the risk of attack by putting a few security measures in place, including the use of strong passwords, installing security software, encrypting their hard drives, and installing updates on time.