Cyber threats are a massive problem. Every year, folks around the globe face billions of malware and phishing attacks right in their homes. Your hard-earned cash, your identity, and your security are on the line.

But here's the good news: you can easily dodge most cyber threats. A few easy home security tips can help keep you and your family safe and sound. This article is here to show you how to beef up the security of your computer and home network. We'll dig into:

  • Why backing up data is super important

  • Why you need to be using a VPN

  • How antivirus software can be your digital knight in shining armor

  • Tips for cruising the web safely

  • How to use your mobile devices securely

  • And much more...

So, let's not waste any time and delve right in.

Home computer security tips

Don't let the bad actors get their hands on your data or money. Keep prying eyes off what's on your computer by following these home computer security tips.

Educate yourself and your family

Getting the lowdown on cybersecurity and sharing this knowledge with your family is key because it impacts everyone. So, get to know the most common cybersecurity threats and learn how to spot and prevent them. Do this by sticking with reliable sources, like official websites, cybersecurity pros, and top-notch blogs.

Have regular chats with your family about potential online pitfalls. Teach them about safe internet habits, like crafting strong passwords, steering clear of links from sketchy websites, and thinking twice before over-sharing on social media.

Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Nowadays, tons of online services let you lock down your accounts with not just one, but two or more authentication methods. So even if a cyber sneak gets hold of your password, multi-factor authentication will give them a serious headache trying to get into your accounts.

Apart from having a password for your accounts, you can choose additional check-in methods. These can include biometrics (think fingerprints, your lovely mug, or your voice) and verification via phone or email with codes or calls.

It's also a smart move to answer fact-based security questions incorrectly. Just make sure your answer is unique and sticks in your memory. Avoid going for info that's easy to find out, like your birth date, social security number, or driver's license number.

You could also consider using an authenticator app when you log into an account. It hands out a one-of-a-kind, temporary code you can use alongside your username and password. Some of the big-name authenticator apps include Authy, Microsoft Authenticator, and Google Authenticator.

Back up important data

Make it a habit to back up essential stuff, like financial records, digital birth certificates, mortgage deeds, and copies of inheritances. Regular backups are a lifesaver if you're hit with a malware attack involving spyware, trojans, or ransomware.

Stash these files in a safe spot, either on a local drive or online, and make use of encryption tools. Google Drive, iCloud, and Dropbox are well-known services in the cloud services arena. A big plus of these cloud services is they can automatically back up your data. This way, you won't have to worry about local folders and files not getting saved.

Configure privacy settings on all devices

Make it a routine to check and tweak the privacy settings on all your devices and online accounts. And don't forget to keep a close eye on the kiddos' devices, too. Remember, each device you use has its own unique privacy settings.

With Windows 11, you've got a boatload of options under the "Privacy & Security" tab. Here, you can play around with security, Windows permissions, and app permissions.

Configure privacy settings Windows 11

Mac and iPhone have pretty much the same privacy and security settings, which you can find right here:

Mac Security Settings

Some cool security settings on Macs include FileVault and Lockdown Mode. FileVault is all about advanced data encryption, while Lockdown Mode is your go-to if you've suffered a complex cyberattack.

On Android, you can tweak the security settings in the "Security and Privacy Settings" menu. This is where you scan for weak spots and patch them up. If you're using a Samsung phone, make sure to check out the Biometrics, Samsung Pass, Secure Folder, and Secure Wi-Fi settings to beef up your protection.

Security and Privacy Settings Android

Stay safe on social media 

Social networking sites make sharing private info with your pals a breeze. But, easy as it is, it does come with some risks, especially for teens. Follow these tips to make your social media experience both secure and enjoyable.

  • Keep your private info under wraps. Don’t share personal stuff like your full name, address, phone number, and bank account details.

  • Think before you post. Anything you post online could stick around for a long time and might harm your reputation. Only allow friends to see your posts.

  • Use MFA and tough passwords. For an extra layer of security, make sure your social media accounts have unique, strong passwords. And don't forget to turn on multi-factor authentication.

  • Choose your online buddies carefully. Be cautious when accepting friend requests from people you don't know. You might also want to tweak your privacy settings to control who gets to see your posts.

Use a VPN 

When you're looking to keep your online activities and personal information secret, consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

Whether you're chilling at home or surfing the web at your favorite cafe, hackers, viruses, and malware are lurking around every corner, ready to mess with your device. That's where a VPN comes in — it's like your online bodyguard, protecting your device and scrambling your data so you can browse in peace.

You can sign up for a top-notch VPN like CyberGhost, NordVPN, or ExpressVPN. Sure, you have to pay a monthly fee to use their encryption services, but it's totally worth it. Some antivirus software packages also throw in a VPN service, which is a nice bonus.

Yeah, there are free VPNs out there, but we wouldn't bet your data privacy on them. They often lack the security chops to fully protect your data.

Strengthen your router’s security 

Wireless Access Points (WAPs), modems, and routers are the kinds of hardware you find in a home network. These control the data going in and out of your network, so you have to secure them properly.

Here are some pro tips to tighten up your router's security:

  • Do a regular check-up on your router and other network devices to make sure they're set up securely.

  • Turn off the router services and features you're not using. This reduces risks to minimize the target area for attacks.

  • Keep the network device firmware up-to-date. This helps patch up any security holes.

  • Switch off remote router management. This helps block unauthorized access.

  • Set up a separate guest network for your visitors. Keep 'em apart from your main network.

  • Stay alert for any unauthorized devices piggybacking on your network. Also, look out for any weird stuff like increased bandwidth usage or strange requests.

  • Switch off UPnP (Universal Plug and Play). It makes communication between devices a breeze, but it can also leave your network devices wide open for attack.

  • Turn off SSID (Service Set Identifier) broadcasting. This makes your network less visible to hackers. Think of SSID as the official name of a Wi-Fi network.

  • Disable WAN (Wide Area Network) ping response. Hackers can use this to spot your network. A WAN is like a mega-network that isn't tied down to any particular place.

Use a modern operating system

Let's talk about the tech you have at home - computers, laptops, printers, cell phones, tablets, security cameras, appliances, cars, and those "Internet of Things" devices. It's crucial to secure them to dodge any misuse.

A smart move? Use the latest operating systems (OSs). The newest versions come with security perks that the older ones lack. For instance, if you're still hanging on to Windows XP or 7, consider leveling up to Windows 10 or 11. They're packing better antivirus defense and network security.

The cool thing about the latest OSs is that they make it tougher for hackers to break into your computer. To stay on top of updates, just turn on the auto-update feature of your OS.

Get protected with antivirus software

Check out our detailed antivirus ranking for accurate info on the best antivirus software. The list will help you make an astute decision as to which solution is right for you. Our cybersecurity experts have assessed these software options based on real-time protection, automatic updates, email protection, privacy options, and more. 

Think of antivirus tools like Bitdefender, McAfee, or TotalAV as your digital bodyguards. They're built to defend your computer from malware, viruses, and other threats. Let's look at some standout features of a good antivirus program:

  • Real-time protection — The digital bodyguard never sleeps. It keeps a close eye on your computer, spotting threats in real time and blocking them before they can wreak havoc.

  • Virus and malware removal – An antivirus program sweeps your computer to find and kick out any known viruses, malware, and other security risks.

  • Heuristics-based detection — This feature uses complex algorithms to spot unknown threats by their behaviors.

  • Threat database — Your antivirus uses a database of security threats to hunt down and evict them from your computer.

  • Email protection — This one sifts through all incoming emails for any dodgy attachments or links, stopping them before they hit your inbox.

  • Firewall — Lots of antivirus programs come with a built-in firewall. Think of it as a bouncer keeping unauthorized access away from your computer.

  • Web protection — This shields you from harmful websites and throws up a red flag about potentially risky ones before you visit them.

Not sure which antivirus software to choose? To help you make a smart choice, we've put together a detailed antivirus ranking with all the info on the top antivirus software. Our cybersecurity pros have analyzed these software options based on real-time protection, automatic updates, email protection, privacy options, and more.

Secure your passwords 

Protecting your passwords can make a huge difference in the safety of your accounts. Here's how you can keep things secure and really shrink the chances of your accounts getting hacked:

  • Create passwords that not even a genius could crack. Mix upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. And avoid anything a snoop could easily find out, like your name, address, or birthdate.

  • Use different passwords for each of your online accounts. That way, if one password gets nabbed, it won't put all your accounts at risk. Recycling is great, but not for passwords!

  • Try out a password manager. These handy tools can help you keep track of your passwords and store them safely.

  • Give your passwords a refresh now and then. This is especially smart if you think one of your accounts may be in the wrong hands.

  • Keep a sharp eye out for phishing. Scammers try to trick you into handing over private stuff, like passwords, by pretending to be someone you trust. Be extra cautious with emails or websites asking for your password and only share it on websites you know are legit.

Secure home entertainment devices

Many of our home entertainment gadgets, such as TVs, Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and voice-activated devices, are connected to the internet.

To stop these devices from being the weak link in your network, it's crucial to have security measures in place.

  • Make sure your router's firewall shields these entertainment devices to stop unwanted Internet access.

  • Keep your software updated. By regularly updating your smart TVs, streaming devices, and gaming consoles, you ensure they have the latest security patches and features.

  • Use robust passwords. Avoid reusing passwords from other accounts, and create unique, strong passwords for your home entertainment systems.

  • Turn off remote management. If you don't need remote management for tech support, switch it off on your devices. This can help shield your device from unwanted access.

  • Connect through a secure network. Ensure your home network is password-protected, ideally using WPA3 encryption.

Guard your work devices 

Here are some tips to keep your work gear safe when working remotely:

  • Try to avoid moving data via email or removable media between your home and work computers. Doing this could risk your work computer's security.

  • Stick to using the tools and accounts your company provides. Try not to use personal tools, accounts, and resources for work unless it's really needed.

  • Hook up your work devices to a password-protected, secure home network. If you can, use WPA3 encryption.

  • Use a VPN. This ensures your data stays encrypted and secure when you're connecting to your company's networks.

  • Make sure to follow any cybersecurity rules your company sets out.

Avoid phishing scams 

Phishing is the number one form of cybercrime in the US, causing billions of dollars worth of damages each year. Cybercrooks try to fool you into giving them personal info like your login ID, password, and bank or credit card details by using social engineering tricks.

Phishing scams can come at you through phone calls, texts, or social media, but they're mostly found in emails. The tips below will help you dodge email phishing scams:

  • Be cautious with unexpected emails. If an email lands in your inbox from someone you don't know, be careful and think twice before doing anything they ask, like sending money or info. Be careful with opening attachments, too – they might be carrying malware.

  • Keep an eye out for red flags. Phishing emails often have spelling mistakes, use scare tactics, or ask for sensitive info. If an email looks fishy, just delete it.

  • Double-check the sender's identity. If you're not sure an email is legit, try getting in touch with the sender to check. Bear in mind that even friends can send you dodgy links if they've been hit by malware.

  • Check the website's URL. If a link looks sketchy, hover over it to see where it leads. If you see a site you don't know, check the URL has “HTTPS” – that's a sign it's secure. Steer clear of sites without it.

  • Scan email attachments before you open them. Most antivirus programs will do this automatically, but you can also do it manually by right-clicking on the attachment and hitting 'scan'.

  • Turn off images in your emails. Marketers often hide tracking codes in their emails, including in images. These can follow your online activity, so find the option in your email settings to hide images automatically.

Surf the web safely

When you're surfing the web, these tips can keep your computer and personal info safe.

  • Avoid sites offering suspicious or illegal stuff. A lot of these sites offer downloads that sneak malware onto your computer or do it automatically.

  • Don't trust content from unknown sources. Avoid streaming or downloading movies, music, books, or apps unless you know where they're coming from. They might have malware.

  • Stick to secure, well-known browsers that come with built-in security features, like Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

  • Keep your browser up-to-date to make sure you've got the latest security updates and features.

  • If you get links from sources you don't trust, especially in emails or instant messages, don't click on them.

  • Use a pop-up blocker to keep annoying or harmful pop-ups off your screen.

Use a secure connection 

Many websites use an HTTPS connection to keep your PC safe from viruses and malware. Switch on your browser’s Secure Connection feature to make sure all websites you visit start with HTTPS. Here’s how it appears in Chrome:

Chrome Secure Connections

Don't use suspicious USBs or other external devices

Try to avoid using dodgy USBs or other external devices because they might be loaded with malware that can harm your computer. If you get a USB drive from a mystery source and you're not sure what's on it, don't plug it into your computer.

If you have to use an external device, scan it for malware first. Many antivirus programs have a feature that scans USBs. It's always better to be safe than sorry when hooking up external devices to your computer.

Use non-administrator accounts on Windows and Mac 

For added computer security, try using a non-admin Windows account. It's trickier for malware to damage your computer when you're logged in using a non-admin account because you've got limited access to the system. This helps dial down the risk of malicious software installations, sneaky system configuration changes, and the theft of your private data.

On Windows, you can whip up a new account by choosing "Manage another account" from the User Accounts menu. When you're setting up the account, go for "Standard user". On a Mac, don't tick the "Allow user to administer this computer" option after you've created a new user.

Mac User Admin

Use mobile devices safely

Given the massive number of malware infections that pop up on mobile devices each year, you'll want to take steps to protect your phone or tablet - especially considering how much we rely on them and how vulnerable they can be to attacks.

  • Never expose your device in public; keep it locked with a PIN or password. 

  • Stick to installing apps only from trustworthy stores (like Google Play or App Store)

  • Keep your device's operating system up to date, as updates often include important security patches.

  • Many handheld devices have data encryption capabilities; check out your device's documentation to learn more about what it offers.

  • If your device goes missing, use the Find My Device (Google) or Find My iPhone (Apple) tools to track it down.

  • If your kids have smartphones, set up parental controls on their devices. This lets you manage when and what they see on their phone. And pay extra attention when setting up your child's iPhone, as kids can be more vulnerable to online threats like cyberbullying.

Avoid using debit cards to pay online

Paying online with a credit card instead of a debit card can be safer. In general, credit cards pack a better fraud protection punch because you're not responsible for unauthorized charges.

Picture this: someone steals your credit card info and starts going on a spending spree. You can dispute those shady charges with your bank, and there's a good chance you'll get your money back.

On the flip side, debit cards are hooked directly into your bank account. So if your card info gets stolen, a thief can drain your account in no time. That means you might temporarily lose access to your hard-earned money and face a steeper uphill battle to get it back.

So, while using a credit card for online purchases doesn't totally shield you from fraud, it does offer a stronger defense and makes it easier to dispute bogus charges.

If you're still keen on using a debit card online, use a virtual one. Virtual debit cards have a fraud protection barrier that's on par with a credit card. Or consider using finance apps like PayPal for an extra layer of security for your bank account.

Cybersecurity for home users — key takeaways

Here's a quick rundown of key points to remember for keeping your home cyber secure:

  • Educate yourself and your family about cybersecurity at home.

  • Turn on two-factor authentication for all important accounts.

  • Back up crucial data to either a cloud service or a secure physical drive.

  • Fine-tune privacy settings on all devices.

  • Be smart on social media — avoid oversharing, and don't fall for scams.

  • Use a VPN to secure your internet connection whenever you can.

  • Keep your firewall enabled to fend off intruders trying to sneak into your network.

  • Beef up your router's security to hold off attackers.

  • Use a modern operating system that's ready to tackle today's threats.

  • Harness the power of antivirus software suites; they're like the Swiss army knives for stopping cyber threats.

  • Keep your passwords secure and easy to manage with a password manager.

  • Regularly update your software to patch up any weak spots.

  • Secure your home entertainment devices to keep hackers at bay.

  • Protect your work devices and keep your company's data safe.

  • Dodge phishing scams to keep your money and identity secure.

  • Avoid using debit cards to pay online — choose credit cards.

Octav Fedor (Cybersecurity Editor)

Octav is a cybersecurity researcher and writer at AntivirusGuide. When he’s not publishing his honest opinions about security software online, he likes to learn about programming, watch astronomy documentaries, and participate in general knowledge competitions.