When Microsoft first introduced Windows 8 back in 2012, the reception was, well, let’s call it lukewarm. Many an experienced user found the operating system’s tablet-style tiled interface confusing or just plain off-putting. Consequently, Windows 8 took a pretty bad beating from customers and critics alike.
It didn’t help matters that although Microsoft had built antivirus features directly into Windows 8, it seemed like every other week brought news of a new virus threat or a new breach in the operating system’s defenses. So what’s a concerned user to do? How can you hope to operate a PC, even one with Microsoft antivirus protection baked into the DNA, and protect yourself from the ills of the Internet?
Take a breath—it can be done. In fact, with just a few strategic additions to the Microsoft antivirus tools in Windows 8, you can secure both your data and your identity. Here are the three secret ingredients for security success:
1. A Password Manager
Another day, another report of a hacked password database. Unfortunately, there’s a reason for this: We now live in a password-powered world. You need one for anything and everything nowadays: banking sites, shopping sites, e-mail services, social networks, Netflix, and on and on.
Unfortunately, password management is such a hassle, most users make a lot of mistakes that make life easier for hackers. Instead of employing a different password for each and every site and service, they use the same password over and over. And instead of mixing together a lengthy cocktail of letters, numbers, and symbols, they opt for easy-to-remember passwords like the dog’s name or, worst of all, “password.”
That’s why a password manager is essential for Windows 8 users. These programs serve a variety of important functions, starting with storing all your passwords under a single roof. Now, instead of having to remember a million passwords, you have to remember only one. A password manager will also generate secure passwords for you (using the aforementioned “cocktail”) and automatically insert them when you visit protected sites. Its convenience and vastly improved security in one fell swoop.
There are a number of great password managers out there. Among the ones worth trying: Dashlane, LastPass, and RoboForm.
2. Web of Trust
Believe it or not, the simple act of using a search engine can lead to serious security woes. Suppose, for example, you just heard a hilarious new “Weird Al” Yankovic song and want to look up the lyrics. A quick Bing or Google or Yahoo search later and you’ve found a dozen sites promising exactly that. So you click one of them and
Whoops. You’ve just landed at a site that can compromise your PC with pop-ups, spyware, keyloggers, and other seriously nasty stuff. (This can happen: Just clicking through to a malware-minded Web site can have unfortunate consequences.) If only you’d know the site was dangerous before clicking the link!
That’s the idea behind Web of Trust, a free browser add-on that vets search results, thus helping you avoid disreputable destinations. Whenever you run a search, Web of Trust color-codes each resulting link: green for “safe,” yellow for “potentially unsafe,” and red for “Danger, Will Robinson!” Now you know at-a-glance the good sites from the bad ones. This is a great addition to any PC, even one protected by Microsoft antivirus.
3. Antivirus Software
Microsoft virus protection is like a daily glass of orange juice intended to ward off colds: a good start, but not enough. Your Windows 8 PC needs a more comprehensive antivirus solution, something that’s updated regularly and therefore capable of coping with the latest threats.
Okay, but which antivirus program should you choose? Look for one that promises little impact on system performance. And why stop at virus protection? Some programs, like Norton Antivirus offer a veritable suite of security tools, including antispam filters, identity-theft monitoring, and anti-phishing safeguards.
You can find lots of information on-- and reviews of --a wide range of security utilities at Top10AntiVirusSoftware.com, including the best antivirus software for Windows.