Secure your personal computers.

If you are allowed to use your personal computer for work, it’s important to keep it secure. Even if you don’t, it’s still important to keep it secure – it has your information on it, after all, and a hacker could target work computers and networks by taking over your own computer first. Take these steps to make sure your home computers are secure:

  1. Update your operating system. Whether you use Microsoft Windows, Apple’s OS X, or even Linux, you should apply security ‘patches’ every month. Check your settings – set automatic updates so you don’t have to worry about it.
  2. Use anti-malware (‘anti-virus’) software. Make sure you have a current subscription and that the software is running and up-to-date.
  3. Enable your computer’s built-in firewall. You can find the OS X firewall in system preferences under Security & Privacy. The Windows 10 firewall is under Update & Security and then Windows Security.
  4. Enable encryption if it is available. FileVault is included with OS X but Microsoft’s BitLocker is only included with some Windows versions. (If you use Linux, dm-crypt is a built-in option.)
  5. Set a password – if your computer is stolen, a password combined with encryption can keep thieves from accessing your personal files.
  6. Set a 15-minute screen lock. It’s easy to set your screensaver to start automatically and require a password when you return.
  7. Backup your files. You can do this online or with an external device – if you use an external device, disconnect it between backups so that a ransomware attack can’t encrypt your backups, too.
  8. Replace unsupported operating systems. If you can’t find any updates for your computer, it’s likely because you have an unsupported operating system like Windows XP, Windows 7, or an old version of OS X. Replace the software with the latest version.

There are lots of different operating systems, anti-malware solutions, and backup systems. If you aren’t sure how to complete these steps, each manufacturer’s website will share guidance – or friends and family can hopefully help.