Did Santa bring you a new laptop or desktop computer? If so, here are a few tips on how to protect your valuable new computer.
Crooks steal. It is their job. Take pictures of each side of your laptop or desktop that clearly shows the make, name, model number and serial number. If your computer is ever stolen and recovered by authorities; the pictures may prove helpful when trying to claim your property.
ELECTRICITY CAN BE YOUR ENEMY
Why spend hundreds of dollars (or more) on a computer and then plug it directly into an electrical outlet or a $5 power strip? When\if there is a power problem at your home, your device may be fried…toast. Buy a UPS and plug your computer into it.
BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP
The day will surely come when you will have problems with your operating system (OS) or have corrupt files or loose data. It’s too late to worry about not having a backup AFTER you have these types of problems. Be proactive. I recommend making 2 exact image copies of your OS BEFORE you have problems. In addition, create a good backup plan for your data files and use it daily. I have my files backed up to three different places:
External Hard Drive
An exact complete system image (clone) of my OS is stored on two separate sets of DVD discs. If Windows crashes or has some other major problem, I can just pop in my discs and restore Windows to a perfect running state. The other option is to spend multiple hours trying to manually repair the OS…no thanks.
New viruses are created every day. Please use a good antivirus program and keep it updated. I use Avast on my laptop, tablet and phone. It has worked very well for me.
Spyware is software that sits undetected on your computer and monitors, records and sends everything you type to the bad guys. Protect your personal information by using a good antispyware program and keep it updated.
It is a good idea to know who or what is connected to your computer and what information is leaving and coming into your computer. A firewall will alert you when there is suspicious activity (someone is connected to your PC that should not be or data is leaving that should not). Not having a firewall is like having a house with no doors and windows. It will be hard to control what’s coming in and what’s going out.
UPDATE THE OS
Software makers are always trying to make their products better, faster and more secure. They create and send out updates frequently. It is wise to keep your OS up-to-date. However, be careful, you may not want to apply an update the very same day it is available. There have been times when updates have caused more problems than it solves. I usually wait a few days to see if I hear about any problems with an update before installing it.
UPDATE YOUR APPLICATIONS
Applications (Microsoft Office, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Adobe, etc.) need to be updated as well to make them more secure and work better and faster. Secunia is a good program to use to help you keep your programs up-to-date.
USE A SECURE BROWSER
In my experience, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are fundamentally more secure than Internet Explorer. The fact that an increasing number of threats and malware make their way onto your computer via browsers makes it increasingly important to use a secure browser.
THESE ARE NOT SIMPLE TIMES, THEREFORE YOUR PASSWORD SHOULD NOT BE SIMPLE
Passwords may not be perfect, but they are typically the first line of defense in keeping the bad guys from accessing our computers or personal information. We all have been told to use a passwords that are both easy for us to remember and hard for others to guess\crack. I recommend using a passphrase instead of a password. For example:
The passphrase is more secure and is definitely easier to remember than the cryptic password.
EVERYDAY REGULAR WORK MEANS LOGIN WITH A LIMITED ACCOUNT
You never know when malware may be successful and make its way onto your computer. If you are logged on as a super user\administrator, that means you have complete and total access to your entire computer. Well guess what, so does the virus. Only login as an administrator if you are doing some maintenance that requires that level of access. Log in to your computer using a restricted account when doing normal everyday work. If there is a virus infection, the harm the virus can do may be limited because you are logged in with a limited account.
BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU CLICK
In the old days you had to actually download an infected file or program to infect your computer with a virus. Now all you have to do is click on the link of an infected website. Let’s say you do a Google search and the search returns hundreds if not thousands of possible websites\links. How do you know which of those sites are infected? I use MYWOT to give me a heads-up as to which sites are OK.
ERROR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION
Just have a basic healthy dose of lack of trust. Be suspicious. Do not open emails from people you don’t know. Do not click on attachments from strangers or even from people you know if you suspect that their email account has been compromised.
If you have a laptop, the chances of it being lost or stolen are greater than with a desktop computer. If your device already comes with “Lo-Jack” type software, use it. If not, be proactive and install software on the device that will enable you to find it.
The world has changed and will keep on changing. Be safe.
John L. Jones