I'm planning on buying a regular HP laptop. However, I'm still a novice when it comes to information security. I'm planning on using this laptop to SOLELY login to my bank accounts and NO OTHER website, via my school's secured WiFi connection. What steps would you take to secure an ordinary mid-range performance laptop to a maximum level? I know there are are plenty of resources on the internet that can help me get started and this may seem too broad of a question, but I'd really enjoy the insight.
You want to "secure" the computer. I do not think security is strictly an aspect of the computer and software. It matters what you do as a user on an ongoing basis.
Since it is a new computer presumably the operating system is fresh. If it is not fresh install it from trusted sources. Use full disk encryption (FDE). Enabling FDE might require a re-installation depending upon the operating system. The penalty for using FDE will be that your computer is a little slower. By "a little" I mean that almost all people will not notice the difference. Use an operating system that is used by millions of people.
Make sure you know the correct URI of the financial institution. Then bookmark it so that you do not subsequently visit the wrong website via keyboarding errors.
- Enter secrets such as passwords only on encrypted URIs. Know what the TLS (SSL) indicator looks like on your browser. It might be a green padlock next to the URI. It might be only that the URI begins with
- Use only a browser that is used by millions of other people. Unfortunately for new entrepreneurs, a large user base is an (imperfect) proxy for quality in security.
- Do not install keyloggers and spyware. Since you said you will only use it for banking then restrict your software to whatever the bank advises. This might be a browser or it might be the bank's own applications. Note that programs do not seek to identify themselves as keyloggers and spyware so it is a non-trivial problem to avoid installing them in the general case of a computer being used for a variety of purposes.
- Do not run arbitrary programs whether installed or not. Programs that you haven't installed but potentially can run would include programs that ask you if you want to run them immediately upon a download or programs stored on a removable drive.
- Do not let people video record your keyboarding or other actions on the computer.
Despite your already accepting an answer, I'll add mine.
Most importantly, us two factor authentication (2FA) with your bank!
You need not dedicate a laptop to your banking. If you are worried about the laptop, use a bootable non-persistent OS, there are dozens of Linux variants or you could even use Windows-to-Go if you want Windows. This will bypass everything on your laptop drives that might be there.
FDE is nice for many reasons, but for banking purposes you only need to protect your bank information. This can be done strictly in your head or in an encrypted folder on a thumb drive.
The operating system you use is completely irrelevant.
Forget Tor and VPN's for banking purposes. Most banks blacklist Tor nodes even if you wanted to use them. You have no interest in hiding your identity, quite the reverse in fact.