This is how you arrange your online protection


Security

It is getting harder and harder to protect yourself against attacks. Threats come from multiple angles, so protection is needed on multiple levels. We give tips on how to better protect all your devices and data, for example with the different components of antivirus software. We also look at what you can find in packages from different VPN providers.

The threats from the past year make it clear that it is increasingly difficult to arm yourself against all threats. A good antivirus package is important, but not enough – also because a lot of malware will often try to deactivate or remove that software first. In the first place, it is important to be careful and alert yourself. For example, don’t use administrator accounts where you don’t need to, and make sure that the operating system and all software have the latest security updates so that malware can’t exploit the holes they contain.

But even then you can be vulnerable to zero-day attacks, for example. They take place on the same day that a leak is discovered, so there is no solution yet. In fact, there are vulnerabilities that are known only to hackers, not yet the public or software developers. Fortunately, antivirus software typically doesn’t just try to identify known viruses; it will also analyze program behavior to stop suspicious actions.

If something goes wrong, you should be able to fall back on a backup. As far as we are concerned, the strategy for this may well be tightened up in view of increasingly sophisticated malware and ransomware. Because even your backups are not immune to it (see box “Backup against malware”).

Backup against malware

The time-honored 3-2-1 rule of thumb when it comes to backup is still a good start. It states that you must have three copies of your data, on two different devices, one of which is outdoors, or off-site. Because malware can be in the system for a longer period of time, you should preferably also ensure that you have a backup for a longer period of time. You should also make a backup preferably on a non-connected storage device, such as a removable hard disk.

Ransomware will try to access network folders and encrypt the files on them. A nice feature on more modern nas are the block-based snapshots for incremental backups, where only changes are copied. You can then easily backup every hour without requiring a lot of storage space.

You could also make a backup in the cloud. But a cloud storage service like Dropbox or OneDrive is not the same. The software ensures that files are constantly synchronized with the cloud, including infected files. Often you can restore previous versions of files, which can be a rescue. Furthermore, you can not really rely on the recovery options of Windows itself, such as System Restore. Ransomware, if it has administrator rights to do so, will often delete all restore points.

More extensive antivirus packages

Most antivirus software makers give you a choice of basic protection or the more extensive packages under names such as internet security or total security. We see more and more components appearing in this. The virus scanner is still the most important part, as protection against the different forms of malware. Incidentally, protection against ransomware is not always included, sometimes it is a separate package.

Depending on the package, countless extras will be added such as a password manager, optimization software for your PC, an (online) backup facility, software updater, parental control functions, a webcam and microphone protection to prevent eavesdroppers or a (often somewhat limited) ) VPN service. Usually the basic protection is more than enough, the extras are not always necessary or there are free or better alternatives.

Windows Defender as a basis

The Windows Defender package, a standard part of Windows, has been offering an excellent level of protection in recent years and has therefore been regarded as a Top Product for some time by the renowned AV Test, just like a handful of “big boys”. So paying for antivirus isn’t always necessary. Especially with some common sense, and possibly combined with a few other programs. For example, Malwarebytes Free and an ad blocker in your browser such as uBlock Origin, in addition to ad networks, also stop a lot of malicious code at the source. For Windows 10, Microsoft recently released some useful security updates for you to take advantage of. A good example is the Tamper Protection, which prevents malware from modifying the settings of Microsoft Defender.

Windows has received various security updates, such as protection against manipulation.

Arm against phishing emails

Many anti-virus software protects you via extensions against opening unsafe links in the browser and that protection can be improved with a firewall. You will also often find a password manager in the packages with which you can save your login details and generate strong passwords. Usually there are better options out there, even with a free plan without too many restrictions, including LastPass and the open source Bitwarden. Use two-step verification as often as possible for websites and services where you log in, but also to restrict access to your password manager to trusted devices!

With Bitwarden, among others, there are good and free password managers.

Use a VPN connection

More and more Dutch people are using a VPN connection. More than half turn on the VPN regularly or even continuously. There can be several reasons for this. For example, to connect to the company network or an educational institution, to log into your own network, to browse anonymously or to bypass regional blockades. After all, you cannot always use all websites, apps or social media abroad. Or maybe you would like to watch the American version of Netflix here. Some security software providers offer a VPN as additional protection, such as Norton WiFi Privacy, which is basically just a VPN subscription. You can doubt whether that is really a good choice. Certainly with regard to privacy, there are often better alternatives (see box ‘Privacy with VPN providers’).

Norton WiFi Privacy is actually a VPN service.

Privacy with VPN providers

Privacy is becoming increasingly important with VPN subscriptions. You will quickly come across the terms 5 eyes, 9 eyes and 14 eyes. In fact, they describe a coalition of countries that collect and exchange data en masse. Even personal communication is no longer of course private. The United States, together with Great Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, form the so-called 5 eyes: they share almost all information gathered by intelligence services. It is therefore best to avoid the VPN providers that are headquartered in those countries. This applies to a lesser extent for the countries from the 9 eyes (which also includes the Netherlands) and to an even lesser extent for the countries from the 14 eyes. If you want optimal privacy protection, it is best to avoid all those fourteen countries. You will find a handy website with a table to compare which data providers keep about you and in which countries they are located here. Not all providers are transparent, but it gives a good indication.

On this website you can compare privacy conditions via handy tables.

Packages from VPN providers

Apart from the privacy aspects and the retention policy at VPN providers, you will pay particular attention to the price and specifications of VPN subscriptions. The market is very competitive, so you will regularly come across discount promotions or attractively priced longer subscriptions. In terms of specifications, the number of simultaneous connections is important, in addition to any data or bandwidth limit. The ability to use OpenVPN is an important added value, given the extra protection it can offer with proper encryption. Also note support for streaming services and p2p. Not all VPN providers allow you to use or download Netflix via torrents.

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