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By Dr. Christopher Ivancic
Associate professor of computer science and graduate program coordinator

Dr. Christopher IvancicOur lives are reliant upon computers. Throughout COVID-19, we have used them as never before for education and work purposes.

From laptops to desktops and smartphones, we also depend on these machines to help manage our finances, map our routes, share photos with friends and family, and connect via social media.

Here are a few tips you can use to help reduce the risks of damage and security threats to your computers.

Use strong passwords. Choose a password with at least 12 characters. Use uppercase and lowercase letters, and incorporate numbers and symbols. Avoid using a word that can be found in the dictionary or the name of a person, character, product or organization. Do not reuse a password. If you have trouble remembering passwords or creating strong ones, consider using a password manager, like Google’s password manager, to help you organize, generate and recall your passwords.

Use antivirus software and firewalls. Antivirus software from a trusted provider can help prevent viruses from harming your computer. They can isolate malware, ransomware, viruses, adware and other threats, and some can remove them altogether. A firewall typically establishes a barrier between a trusted network and an untrusted network, such as the internet. Most modern systems come preinstalled with antivirus software and firewalls.

Update your software. Software updates are important to your digital safety and cybersecurity. They can patch security holes, remove outdated and enhance existing features, and add new features. It’s a good idea to let your computer software update automatically. You can set the updates to occur when you’re sleeping to reduce downtime.

Back up your data. Consider using an external drive to back up your computer’s data. In the event of theft, hard drive failure, virus infection, computer crashes and other issues, you will still have access to your information.

A little vigilance now can go a long way in helping to keep your computer safe.