Five Products and Apps to Make Your Computer Hack-Proof(ish)

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For a safer computer, think about purchasing a password manager like 1Password or LastPass. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

Let's talk computer safety. The online world is becoming ever more ingrained in our daily routines, and the computer is like a fifth limb for many of us. But computer security and privacy are shockingly ignored or misunderstood by so many of us.

It's not complicated or expensive—if anything, with evolving technology and our growing tech savvy, it's getting easier and more inexpensive to protect your computer from leaks and viruses. Here are five ways to get you started in making your computer more private and safer from wandering eyes and hacking hands.

External Hard Drive ($50)

Backing up computer files can be like correcting your sitting posture or flossing your teeth: You only think about doing it when somebody reminds you to do it. Well, this is your reminder to back up your files. Thankfully, you have a few options. One is to back up your files with a cloud-storage service like Dropbox, but buying an external hard drive might be a better way of keeping your files safe.

For one, external hard drives are more immune to hacks because they are offline. Nowadays, external hard drives are getting cheaper almost daily. A Toshiba 1 terabyte—or 1,000 gigabyte—hard drive is just $50, and a Seagate 1TB hard drive is $55 right now on Amazon. Many people would be hard-pressed to fill up 1 terabyte.

Password Manager ($50)

Another good security measure is to have good, lengthy and randomly assembled passwords for all your accounts. But remembering dozens of incoherent patchworks of letters, numbers and symbols is all but impossible. Password managers are your best bet in organizing the chaos.

1Password is one of the most popular and reliable password managers on the market, creating sophisticated passwords for every website; it stores them within a virtual key chain so you can access any website with one click. 1Password recently added a new feature that encrypts the URLs stored in the key chain as well, bolstering its security. 1Password runs on both Mac and Windows—they have a free trial version—for a moderately priced $50.

Tracker-Blocking Apps (Free)

Trackers, these hidden algorithms lurking in the back of Web pages intended to follow your digital footprints, are a scourge of the Internet. At certain websites, multiple trackers are leeching on to your digital self to understand your behavior better to either sell you relevant ads or to sell your data. It is such an endemic issue on the Internet that Firefox recently launched a tracker-free private mode on its browser.

There are many free apps and browser extensions to help you surf the Internet with some peace of mind. One of the most popular tracker-blocking apps in the marketplace is Ghostery, which identifies the trackers lurking in the background and gives you the choice of blocking them. If you are looking for something a bit more powerful, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Privacy Badger is your go-to app. While excellent at digging up trackers, it's less refined in selecting which ones to target. (As it turns out, some trackers are necessary to play videos and read Web pages.)

Encryption Apps (Free)

We might be getting into some Edward Snowden territory, but everyone can protect their data using encryption tools. Encryption sounds like a big, scary word, but with present tools, it does not require a supercomputer or a superbrain to pull it off. With data leaks happening nearly every day, encryption is a necessary part in sharing sensitive files with your colleagues or family without any intrusions.

There are many solid, intuitive encryption applications, like VeraCrypt or AxCrypt, on the market. But if these still sound intimidating to you, try out MiniLock, which is available on Firefox and Chrome. MiniLock was built for people who are intimidated by encryption. Files can easily be encrypted with a click of a button, or decrypt files by dragging the file into a highlighted box.

Tor Browser (Free)

We hear about the dark Web and Tor, a free network that grants complete anonymity on the Internet, like it's a voodoo house of horrors on the seedy edge of the Internet, but that's entirely unfair. Tor's mission is to provide a multilayered, onion-like (hence many Tor-related applications are symbolized with an onion) security mechanism that will cloak any users in anonymity. And with anonymity, there is some level of security on the Internet.

The Tor Browser, from the volunteer-based nonprofit Tor Project, is the most reliable network out there. But unlike MiniLock or other encryption applications, Tor might take some time to get used to because it runs more slowly and differently than a regular browser.