If you want to keep your Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies safe, then it’s essential that you’re taking steps to protect your computer and online accounts.
In this post, I’m going to touch on 8 basic things you can do to protect your computer and website accounts from the evergrowing number of threats in the wild web. This isn’t exciting stuff but is important to get right if you’re doing anything cryptocurrency-related on your computer.
1. Password Protect Your Computer
Ensure that all your devices are protected by a long password. On your phone, I’d suggest using a PIN over a pattern to unlock it.
2. Use Strong and Unique Passwords
Create strong passwords which are randomly generated (i.e. unique). Ideally, you want a password which is at least 12 digits long – including a mixture of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
You could make use of a decent password manager (e.g. KeePass) to manage all of your details. Do make sure that the password to access your password manager is also strong and unique.
Alternatively, if you’re super cautious, you could just keep a notebook to manage all your passwords. This is probably overkill for most people.
3. Enable Two Factor Authentication (2FA)
Whenever a service offers you two-factor authentication (2FA(, you should immediately enable it.
This is an additional layer of security which you can add to your accounts. Once setup, you’ll thereafter require possession of a physical device (e.g. your phone) and a randomly generated code which changes every 30 seconds to access your account.
Although you might be given the choice of 2FA via text message, I’d seriously recommend you use Google Authenticator (or similar) instead. It’s not always an option, but disable 2FA via text message if possible. This is because attackers can, quite easily, port your mobile number to a SIM card they control. Once they do, they’ll receive text messages sent to your number. This includes 2FA codes sent via text message.
If you’re worried about the above, you can ask your mobile network to add a passphrase to your account before they’ll discuss anything with anyone over the phone about your account. However, doing this isn’t a guarantee that they’ll actually ask for the passphrase in the future. If you do this, I’d suggest you verify they’re actually asking for the passphrase a few days later. If they don’t? Try to find someone who takes your security more seriously.
4. Install an Anti-Virus
Lots of people are happy with the Windows Defender (which is packaged with Windows 8 and 10), but there are lots of decent alternative available (for free).
Bitdefender seems well-recommended at the moment. You might also want to check out MalwareBytes, as that’s a frequent recommendation. It lacks real-time protection unless you upgrade to the premium edition which, while not absolutely essential, is nice to have.
5. Secure Your Browser
[For these suggestions, I’ll just assume you’re using Chrome. You’ll find similar settings/extensions offered in Firefox.]
There are some quick settings changes and simple extension installations you can run to make sure browsing experience much more secure (and pleasant).
- Leave automatic updates enabled.
- In People > Sync > Encryption Options
- Select “Encrypt synced data with your own sync passphrase”. Setup a passphrase and record it with paper and pen.
- In Settings > Advanced > Privacy and Security:
- Enable “Protect your and your device from dangerous sites”
- Enable “Send a ‘Do Not Track’ request with your browsing traffic”
- Some additional reading.
- Install “uBlock Origin” (blocks adverts).
- Install “Disconnect” (blocks trackers).
- Install “HTTPS Everywhere” (forces browsing through HTTPS).
- Install “ScriptSafe” (disables all scripts).
- This is aggressive. Only enable this when you’re browsing on risky sites.
6. Check URLs
Before inputting your login information, doublecheck that you’re on the official website and not a phishing website. Once you’ve verified you’re on the correct site, bookmark it for future use. Some details in this article about how to spot a phishing website.
Before clicking through shortened URLs, you might also want to expand the link with something like this to verify that you’re not being directed to a malicious site.
7. Keep Everything Up To Date
Whenever you’re given the option, opt to allow your operating system, anti-virus, and other programs to notify you about available updates. Install them ASAP once you’re aware of them.
8. Backup Your Computer
If your computer is having issues, having a recent backup available allows you to get up and running again ASAP. This will not only save you time as you won’t need to reinstall all your programs and reconfigure their settings, but it’ll make sure you don’t lose all your personal data (documents, photos, etc).
Windows has a built-in backup feature which is easy to setup and use. Ideally, you want to be storing your backup on an external drive and have an off-site backup (e.g. in Dropbox or Google Drive) as well.
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If you have any tips I didn’t mention above, let me know in the comments!