October is National Cyber Security Awareness month (NCSAM). This is year number 11 for NCSAM. Technology has really changed in the last 11 years. We are more connected now than ever. In the past 11 years, the bad guys have gotten much better at compromising computers and stealing personal data.
There are some people that think being proactive and following good cyber security practices is too much work. Yes, doing the things you need to do to stay safe online can feel like a part-time job, but consider the potential consequences. How tough is it to clean up the identity theft mess after a stranger has stolen your personal information? How would you feel if your hard drive crashed and you did not have a backup of your important files and precious photos. You can take your hard drive to a data recovery business. The data recovery professionals will be more than willing to help you, at a cost of about $500. I think it is much more economical to get into the habit of backing up your files. Below are some tips that have served me well over the years.
Why spend hundreds of dollars or more on computer or tablet and then plug it into a $5 power strip. What happens to your technology investment when you have a power surge at your home? A UPS is a good investment.
DUST = HEAT
Dust is the enemy of electronics. Dust creates higher than normal internal temperatures. The high temps over time can decrease the life expectancy of your device. Use a can of compressed air every 2-3 months to blow out your equipment.
There are two types of hard drives, those that have failed and those that will. Take the time to create a solid backup plan and stick to it. Back up your important files to multiple locations. I backup my files to:
· Separate internal hard drive
· USB Thumb Drive
· External Hard Drive
· Google Drive
UPDATE YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM (OS)
Keep Windows updated. Microsoft frequently produces patches and updates to improve the reliability, performance, and security of Windows.
New security flaws are discovered daily. Software companies make updates available to keep their software secure.
Stop using typical passwords (Jo&hnLee%&6Jones!). Use a passphrase (ILoveCollegeFootball$01) relative to something you know very well or always think about. A passphrase is easier to remember and often more secure.
USE A GOOD ANTIVIRUS PROGRAM
New viruses are created just about every day. You must use a good antivirus program and always keep it updated. Avast has worked well for me.
USE A GOOD FIREWALL
How do you know if you have a problem if you have no idea what information is entering and leaving your computer? A firewall will alert you when something bad is trying to enter your computer or if data is trying to leave that should not. I like ZoneAlarm.
BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU CLICK
It is likely that you use Google to search for information on the Internet. Before you click on a link, how do you know which sites are infected? Blindly clicking links is like playing Russian roulette. Use Web of Trust (MYWOT) to alert you to possibly infected websites BEFORE you click.
Think before clicking on email attachments, even from people you know. The bad guys are getting better at spoofing emails and phishing attacks.
SMART PHONE APPS
Free does not always mean free. There may be a price involved in downloading that cool new app. Read very carefully what type of access the app wants. Recently I was going to download a free bike riding app. The app keeps track of the number of miles you ride and calories burned. However, it wanted access to all of my contacts. Why does a bike riding app need to know who is in my contacts list? I did not download it.
Be skeptical. Be a cynic. Have an attitude of, “EVERYBODY IS A SUSPECT.” Once the claim, person, site, app, software or whatever has been vetted, then you can relax your suspicious nature. Please error on the side of caution. Honest admission: I once had a teacher tell me, “Well it must be true because it is on the Internet.”
One last thing, people often tell me, “I don’t have any money. A hacker is not going to come after me. The hacker may not be after money. He may want access and total control of your computer. He can then use your computer to attack other computers or cover his or her tracks.