5 Ways to Increase Security on Your Windows or Mac Computer

Organizers, campaign staff and volunteers, and activists have more reason now than ever to take device security seriously. Below you will find a list of five basic recommendations for making your computer less prone to hacking. If you want to see if your Windows or Mac machine is following these recommendations, you can download Stethoscope an Open Source app from Netflix that will quickly check if your system has all of these measures in place. If any are missing, Stethoscope will help you get them corrected and will keep checking for you every day.

Keep your system up to date

Apple and Microsoft are continually updating macOS and Windows to close security holes and patch dozens of vulnerabilities each year. The best thing you can do is make sure automatic updates are on and manually check that updates are being applied periodically. Stethoscope can also check that you have automatic updates turned on and that your system is running the latest version available.

Use your system’s firewall

“Firewall” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in TV and movies, but what does a firewall actually do? At the most basic level, a firewall makes sure that all data coming into your computer is allowed to do so. When you first enable you may get a few dialogues asking you to allow access to programs; only do so if you recognize the program. If you don’t, a quick Google search should tell you if the program is safe or not.

Use disk encryption for your hard drive

Encrypting your disk makes it more difficult for someone to access your data if they gain physical control of your device. Without encryption, it’s fairly easy for someone who has stolen a computer to retrieve all of the data off the drive. You won’t notice any differences when disk encryption is enabled and you’ll be a much harder target to steal valuable information from.

Turn on your screen lock

One of the easiest ways for someone to gain access to your computer is to wait for you to step away from it, even for a moment, while your computer is unlocked. Screen lock makes sure that once your screen saver comes on, or when you open your closed laptop, you’re immediately asked for your password again. In addition to turning on screen lock, we also recommend manually locking your screen (or closing the lid on a laptop) whenever you step away from your computer. On Windows computers, you can lock your screen by pressing the Windows Key and L at the same time. For Touch Bar Macs you can setup a Touch Bar shortcut and for all other Macs you can use a keyboard shortcut.

Turn off remote login

Remote login is designed for you to control your computer from another computer. Modern versions of Windows and macOS have remote login turned off by default, as it’s not used by most folks and opens up a way for bad actors to gain control of your system. Remote login is an especially bad idea if you use your laptop on public WiFi like at a coffee shop. Anyone else on that WiFi network could try to guess your computer login, and if they guessed correctly, they’d have access to all of your files.

If you run into any issues or just want some help getting your computer more secure, email us at support@campaignhelpdesk.org and we'll help you get setup.

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