Seven Tips For Keeping Your Computer Safe
Seven free (sequential) tips for keeping your computer safe:
Having had to remove some pretty wicked malware from both business and home computers only to find out the Internet Security software and/or Windows updates were not current, led me to share this important blog entry. Keeping your PC safe actually makes my job much easier and less time-consuming. This is particularly crucial when dealing with key business computers where downtime means money lost.
- Make sure your Windows Updates are set to automatically download.
If they are and you see this icon, (Windows Vista and 7) or this icon (Windows XP) on your Task Bar on the lower right (if you have several applications running in the system tray, you may need to click the left arrow to reveal the update icon). Click on the update icon and then click the Install Updates button. The updates may also include Service Packs for your version of Windows and Microsoft Office. Service Packs are imperative because they contain critical updates and others important for your PC’s overall health.
- Make sure your Anti-Virus/Internet Security (IS) software is current. If it has expired, renew it for at least another year. Free IS software doesn’t necessarily mean it is good. I recommend BitDefender Internet Security 2012. It scans, incoming and outgoing email, has anti-spam and anti-phishing filters and plugins, a firewall and you can get a 2 year, 3 user license for around $70.00. It is also rated #1 by many consumer and top 10 review sites.
- Never open an email from anyone you don’t know and especially, if the message has an attachment signified by a paper clip symbol next to the unopened message. That attachment could be a virus so, if you don’t know the sender and there is an attachment, delete the message and empty the deleted items folder in your email client (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.).
- Windows System Restore should be enabled on your PC. If a virus or spyware threat modifies the Windows registry files or “Hive” System Restore makes it possible to disable some threat so it can be cleaned more easily.
- If you choose to download freeware or games, make sure they are from a reputable site and if you don’t know, Google the site first to confirm it is safe.
- If an email is forwarded to you with multiple names of receivers on the distribution list and you do not recognize any names on the list, it is safer not to use the “Reply to All” option. Reply only to the sender you know to help protect your privacy and possibly your identity.
- If you have a home or business wireless network, WPA security should be configured on the wireless router so that it requires a pass code to enter your network. I recommend buying a Wireless N router for better, range, speed and WPA security capability and just to be safe, one that has a built-in firewall. PCs that are on unsecured networks are very vulnerable unless you have really good Internet security software (see tip 2).
Keeping your identity safe:
As an extra precaution, I recommend keeping all data that contains personal information, like, Quicken/QuickBooks and Turbo Tax files on a USB jump drive (one you don’t take with you everywhere) or at the very least, on a separate computer that is not connected to the Internet. Plug the flash drive into your PC only when opening, editing, saving existing and saving new personal files. The files can also be made safe by encrypting them and a lot of the new flash drives now have a way to password protect your drive. You can read about encryption online and in your Windows operating system help section. You will want to keep the flash drive in a fireproof box or file cabinet that can be locked when not in use.
I’ve been asked to clarify the reasons behind this and here they are:
- Personal files like tax return files contain your Social Security Number and annual income and you simply do not want to inadvertently have that data become public information.
- Like solid state hard disks, jump or flash drives have no mechanical parts like IDE or SATA hard disks do and they are small enough to be stored in any fireproof box or even off-site in a safe deposit box at your bank.