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The most important thing to protect your devices, computers and data from hackers is secure PC software. Hackers (also called cybercriminals) attack your computer or other device for a variety of reasons, including taking, altering and deleting information you value. Hackers have malicious motives, unlike other thieves who may utilize stolen items to fulfill legitimate needs. They are most concerned with unauthorized access to your personal data, often before you know there’s been a problem.

Passwords, a security program and firewalls are the three essential steps to secure your computer software. If you follow these recommended guidelines, it’s less likely that your computer will be compromised by malware or hackers (software that encrypts your data and demands payment for its unlocking).

Change the name of the administrator account. Make sure you choose an extremely secure password that includes lower and uppercase letters, numbers and computer symbols. Avoid using a simple password such as 1234 since hackers can employ automated software to crack passwords that are simple to guess in just a few minutes.

Maintain your operating system (OS) and other software up-to-date. The majority of software updates include security fixes to help protect against hacking. Install all patches and enable automatic updates as they become available to limit the amount of time you’re vulnerable to intrusions.

If you own a laptop or other portable device, ensure that your drive is protected when not in use. This is especially important for UF students. You can enable encryption in Windows by going to Settings > Update & security > Device encryption. This will encrypt the entire internal drive, as well as all external drives such SD cards.