PC SECURITY TIPS
Online identity theft is on the rise, with billions of dollars of losses now reported each year. Because “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, taking certain precautions can help you stay safe. General Tips
Here are some easy things you can do to protect yourself online:
Never use the same user id you use for email or internet logon for anything else
• Using separate user id’s for important accounts will help minimize the security risk in the event someone gets hold of your credentials.
Never use your email password for anything else.
• By keeping a separate and distinct password for your email account, you will help prevent unauthorized access to your email.
sure all passwords are difficult to “guess”
• As a rule of thumb, use a minimum of 8 characters. Use a combination of upper and lower case letters and at least one number or special character. Safeguard your user id’s and passwords just as you would your bank account information and PIN number.
Never click on links in emails, particularly from banks and credit card companies that you have an account with
• Open up a web browser, key in the website address and then log in. Cyber-thieves routinely send emails that look like legitimate correspondence from your bank. The links they give you normally take you to a copy of a legitimate website – this is called ”phishing”. Inputting your account information onto these fraudulent websites will allow thieves to gain access to your real account – this part of the scam is called ”pharming”.
Unless absolutely necessary, never download and install freeware
• If you do download free software, only download from developer’s “official” site. Many copycat sites exist that are fraudulent – especially those offering a free virus scan or spyware scan. Downloading software or allowing your PC to be “scanned” by an unofficial website will most certainly install spyware on your system.
Use parental control software if children use the computer
• This will prevent access to questionable websites where spyware can secretly be installed. It will also help protect youngsters from online predators. Many internet security suites include parental control software. If you have kids who use the internet, it’s a good idea to have this extra layer of protection.
Be sure you are using the most current version of web browser , and check to be sure its security settings are set as high as you can stand it.
• This will ensure that you are not surfing the net with an insecure browser and will prevent many sites from installing certain types of spyware and adware on your PC.
Never click on pop up ads as this can install spy ware on your system
• One click is all it takes to have spyware secretly installed. Many pop up advertisements will take you to unscrupulous websites where your security could be at risk.
Avoid browsing to questionable websites
• Sites that contain illegal, immoral or lewd content are often havens for spyware. Simply viewing some of these sites is all it takes to infest your computer with spyware.
Use a Computer Security Suite, and set it to automatically download and install updates
• Also known as an Internet Security Suite, this software is a must have for every computer that accesses the internet. It will protect you from dangerous viruses, spyware, phishing emails and intruders.
Use Antivirus, Anti Spyware, and a Personal Firewall Internet Security
• The first thing you should do to protect yourself from online security threats is to get a good antivirus program, as well as anti spyware software, and a personal firewall. These products act as your personal watchdog; constantly scanning your system for known patterns of suspicious file activity and stopping the “bad stuff” before it has a chance to do any damage. The easiest and most affordable thing to do is to purchase an internet security suite. This is a “bundled” package of specialized computer security software that is designed to work together to provide a “blanket of protection”.
Keep Your Operating System and all Applications Up to Date
• Use Microsoft Windows “Automatic Update Service” to ensure you have the latest hot fixes, security patches, and service packs. These updates are designed to counter the effects of the latest security threats by closing newly discovered security “holes” and adding protective enhancements to your operating system. Windows Update will also keep your Internet Explorer web browser up to date.
• It’s important to keep all program applications such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Real Player, Flash Player, iTunes, etc… up to date as well. Hackers and cyber-criminals often find and exploit security holes in applications, and use this as a way to get into your computer. Go to the developers website on a regular basis and download the latest updates to the software you are running. Most new versions of software include an “auto update” feature that you can turn on to make this an automatic process.
Never Download Free Screensavers, Games, or Other “Freeware” Applications
• Free software is notorious for carrying invasive adware and dangerous spyware that can cripple your system or steal personal information. If you must download free software, be sure to read the EULA (user license agreement) carefully. This will often tell you that by installing the software, you are agreeing to install other applications that deliver advertising (this is adware). If you don’t want this additional advertising software installed, don’t install the software. Adware and spyware is often difficult to remove, so be careful what you download and install.
Never Open Email From People You Don’t Know
• Un-requested, unsolicited bulk email is called Spam, and usually contains advertisements for illegal or unsavory products/services. A lot of spam now contains dangerous phishing scams, which tricks you into going to fraudulent websites where spyware might be installed without your knowledge. Many links in phishing emails also take you to fraudulent sites that are “carbon copies” of legitimate financial institutions. Attempting to log on to these sites will send your credentials to the spammer, who will quickly wipe out your account.
Backup Your Data on a Regular Basis
• Hard drives crash every day, with little warning. A computer virus can quickly corrupt your operating system or damage all your files. Spyware can cripple a computer so badly that the only way to restore functionality is to reformat the hard drive. Important files can accidentally be deleted. These are all good reasons to keep a current backup copy of all your files. When disaster strikes (and it will eventually), you can still have access to family photos, term papers, and other work if you have a copy on CD or a second hard disk. An easy, inexpensive way to ensure you never lost your files is to use an online backup service
1. Disguise your laptop Physical Security
Look around: you’ve likely seen people carrying obvious laptop bags, though there’s no rule that says you have to. Alternative carry bags reduce the chance that someone will try to grab your laptop at an airport or elsewhere. In the same way that you hide your CD case or iPod before you get out of your car, by disguising your laptop you reduce the total pool of potential thieves, and thus lower the chances of having your computer physically stolen.
• Make sure the alternative bag is water-resistant and padded.
• A convenient alternative to the laptop case is a messenger bag, but you might also try an army surplus bag, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, a pizza box. If a lack of aesthetic appeal doesn’t bother you, making your new bag look weathered and dirty (while the laptop is out of the bag of course!) further reduces the likelihood of theft.
• If you’ve got the cash, Boblbee offers a great multi-purpose hard-shell backpack that will keep your computer safe without immediately signaling what you’re carrying. One model, the Megalopolis, is specifically designed to hold and hide a laptop as well as protect it from the occasional fall.
2. Use anti-theft solutions
Planning to use your laptop in a public place such as a library or bookstore cafe? Worried that it might get swiped if you leave it unattended for a moment? Good, you should be. Thankfully, there are a couple steps you can take to minimize the risk of this occurring, and to improve the chances of computer recovery if it does.
• One technique that serves as both a deterrent and a recovery tool is to get STOP’s Security Plate, which leaves a permanent tattoo on your laptop to indicate that the device is traceable by police in case of theft.
• Another creative security measure is to install tracking software so that if stolen, your laptop will secretly transmit its location to a control center as soon as the thief accesses the internet.