Seven Timeless Online Security Tips

I've had to give someone the standard list of seven timeless online security tips. Again. It feels like decades since we compiled this list. Hang on, it is decades since we compiled this list. So why doesn't everyone get it by now?

The attack vectors from online threats just keep multiplying, but the principles for staying safe are the same as they ever were. Here, in short form, are the seven favourites.

1. Use built-in antivirus software (or any reputable anti-virus software, free or paid)
On Windows 10, you get the Windows Defender anti-virus for free. If you don't trust Microsoft, there are plenty of free alternatives such as Avast, Avira, AVG, Clam-TK and many, many more, plus the paid versions of each of these, plus paid anti-virus programs such as (yuk) Symantec's butchered Norton and Macafee.
On Macintosh, XProtect is Apple's equivalent of Defender antivirus. You need an anti-virus program.
2. Don't visit untrustworthy websites
Modern browsers including Chrome, Firefox and Edge all keep tabs on malware sites that spread viruses, trojans and ransomware; the warning screens will stop you by default and require you to confirm that you want to continue. They even warn you if there's no SSL certificate to secure you against man-in-the-middle attacks. Don't ignore the warnings about hazardous sites.
3. Use anti-malware and anti-spyware software
There are additional tools such as MalwareBytes to protect against spyware, rootkits and other threats that standard anti-virus software doesn't catch. Microsoft includes an element of this bundled into Windows Security. Us it in conjunction with your anti-virus to obtain a better level of top-to-bottom protection

4. Don’t Open unknown emails, unrecognised links and attachments
Opening or downloading attachments from unknown emails is the second biggest cause of spyware infection. They are common attack vectors because people can be all to easily persuaded that these are legitimate.

Delete all suspicious emails, do not download any attachments and do not click on inline links, especially when they are disguised via link-shortening services so that you cannot read the end destination without clicking on it.
5. Reject torrents and pirate streaming sites
Those pirate sites offering free premium content such as TV shows, movies and games are a hotbed for malicious programs like malware, worms, viruses, and others. If it looks too good to be true, then it's probably hiding something unpleasant to trap the greedy or gullible.
6. Update your operating system (frequently)
All devices now have a way of updating the operating system (Windows, iOS, Android, Linux) so the developers can patch exploits and vulnerabilities at the OS-level. This means enabling the update service within the OS so that it can do its one important job.

7. Stop downloading apps from third-party websites
It's not just dubious applications from no-name developers (free or paid) that carry an unknown risk; hacked, cracked and jacked versions of big-name apps can be used to smuggle all manner of spyware, ransomware and other nasties onto your device. Do you reputation checks online before you install any app and that includes the site that offers it. There are plenty of free and paid alternatives to big-name software available from reputable sources.