OCTOBER IS NATIONAL CYBER SECURITY AWARENESS MONTH

cyber security awareness month

Now is a good time to evaluate and possibly improve your digital safety practices. Knock on wood, so far, I have never had a virus infection, lost data, been hacked, or lost control of any of my accounts…I’ve had no computer chaos.

Here are a few of the tips that I have used over the years:

 

THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK

Certain websites have a notorious reputation for being infected with viruses. These include gambling sites, pornographic sites and sites where you can illegally download movies and software. My advice, just avoid them altogether.

USE GOOD ANTIVIRUS PROGRAM

Even some of the more mainstream sites can fall prey to an attacker. The attacker infects the site with a virus, you connect to the site, and the virus automatically downloads to your computer. It is called “drive-by-download.” You can reduce your chances of this happening to you by using a good antivirus program and keeping it up to date; Avast works well for me (and it’s free). 

 USE STRONG PASSWORDS

We’re not yet at the point where we use biometrics (finger print scan or retina scan) for primary access control of computers and websites. Passwords are still our main line of defense. Please use strong passwords. Do not use your name, the name of your school, your kid’s name or something that can be easily guessed. Use a password phrase and add a few numbers and symbols to it. For example: IreallyLoveMICHIGANfootball$01.

USE A MORE SECURE BROWSER

Internet Explorer was the most popular browser. It seemingly has always been the least secure. In my experience, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera are more secure than Internet Explorer.

KNOW THE REPUTATION OF A SITE BEFORE YOU CLICK ON IT

Most people use Google to search for information.  With any given search, Google returns several thousand or even millions of website results. How do you know which of those sites is infected. If you use Web Of Trust (WOT) you will know BEFORE you click.

http://www.mywot.com/

KEEP YOUR BROWSER, OPERATING SYSTEM AND ALL OTHER APPLICATIONS UP TO DATE

Software developers are constantly finding security holes in their products, and they send out updates and patches. Keeping your software up to date makes it harder for your system to be attacked. A good product to help you stay up to date is Secunia Personal Software Inspector.

http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/

BACK IT UP…DATA AND WINDOWS OPERATING SYSTEM

Given enough time, there are two types of hard drives: those that have failed and those that will fail. Please create a backup plan and use it. I have my important files backed up to three different places. You never want to put all of your eggs in one basket. I use the free version of SyncBack to backup my files to my USB Drive, external hard drive, and Google Drive.

http://www.2brightsparks.com/syncback/

BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU CONNECT

My daughter and I often go to Barnes & Noble. I wonder how many of the people there sipping on their coffee and using Wi-Fi are TRULY connected securely. It is relatively easy to capture unprotected wireless data coming back and forth between your computer and an unsecure wireless access point. I believe in using a VPN when connecting to public networks. Yes Barnes & Noble (or any other business) may say their network is secure, but I’ll add the extra protection and using a VPN client.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2408596,00.asp

BE CAREFUL WHEN DOWNLOADING

Before downloading any software, carefully read and know what you are getting into. Take a look at the privacy policy. Also be aware that the software you download may include software you don’t want. For example, often a person may download some educational software and it comes bloated with several other BHO (Browser Helper Object) programs that automatically install in your Internet browser. Many of these programs have pop-ups and slow down your Internet connection.

In general:

Slow down, think logically.

Do not automatically trust any person, website or software or device. Verify everything.

Research.

Get help from someone that knows more than you do.

Trust your gut, use common sense.

Stay Safe,

John L. Jones

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