The most important thing to protect your devices, computer systems and information from hackers is secure PC software. Hackers (also called cybercriminals) hack into your computer or other device for a variety of reasons, such as stealing, altering and deleting data you consider valuable. Hackers have malicious intentions, unlike other thieves who may steal items for legitimate reasons. They are more interested in unauthorized access to your sensitive information, often before you even realize there’s been a problem.

Passwords, a virus prevention program and a firewall are the three primary steps to secure your computer software. If you follow these best practices your computer will be less susceptible to being compromised by hackers, malware or ransomware (software which encrypts your data and demands payment to unlock it).

Change the name of your administrator account. Choose a strong password containing upper and lowercase letters numbers, computer symbols and numbers. Do not use a short password, like 1234, because hackers can employ automated tools to crack passwords that are easy to guess within minutes.

Keep your operating system (OS) and other software up-to-date. Most software updates contain security patches that help guard against hacking. Install all patches and enable automatic updates when they are available to reduce the amount of time you’re at risk to intrusions.

If you own a laptop, or any other portable device that is not being used, ensure that your drive is secure. This is especially important for UF students. Windows allows users to enable encryption by going to Settings > Update and Security > Device encryption. This will secure your entire internal drive, as well as the majority of external drives, such as SD cards.

continue reading this