Computing Safely

Cybercrime affects everyone and comes in all shapes and sizes. Many do not do everything they can to protect themselves. Prevention is straightforward - when armed with a little technical advice and common sense, many attacks from hackers and viruses can be avoided. In general, criminals are trying to make their money as quickly and easily as possible. The more difficult you make their job, the more likely they are to leave you alone and move on to an easier target. Therefore, it is recommended that you use several methods of security instead of relying on just one.

Tips for Internet Security

Always use anti-virus software. Your anti-virus software (sometimes more broadly referred to as anti-malware software) should be set to constantly monitor your computer and devices, and be sure your virus definitions are kept up to date by configuring the software to update itself. Anti-virus software monitors all online activities and protects against viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other types of malicious programs.

Password protect your computer and devices. User accounts should be password protected to prevent unwanted access to personal files and information.

Establish a back-up schedule for important data. Regularly backing up your data can prepare you for any malicious programs that delete your files.

Maintain your computer and devices with up-to-date security patches and updates. One of the best ways to keep hackers out of your computer and devices is to apply patches and other software fixes when they become available. When vulnerabilities are discovered, software companies issue patches that fix those particular problems. By regularly updating your computer and devices, you block hackers from being able to take advantage of software vulnerabilities that they could otherwise use to break into your system.

Make sure your computer and devices are configured securely. Configuring your web browser is very important. Oftentimes security and privacy settings can be properly configured without any sort of special expertise by simply using the "Help" feature of your software or reading the vendor's website.

Never leave important data unattended. The simple act of closing files and logging-off or locking your computer or device can limit your security risk.

Use parental controls. Parental controls for computers and devices manage when your kids can go online and limit them to approved, safe websites. Some parental controls even limit your children's ability to share or download files, helping to ensure they don't load your system with spyware. This security software is included with several security suites and is also available as a standalone product. Buy it, install it and use it. Kids may not think it's fair, but it's much safer than leaving them unprotected.

Establish policies and rules for information security. Rules should be established in your home, providing guidelines for secure and proper computer use.

Only download from websites you know and trust. Downloading from unknown or unreliable sources can be dangerous, as files may contain malware.

Be cautious about downloading email attachments. Many attachments contain viruses that can infect your device, so make sure that your security software is up-to-date and only download attachments from senders you know and trust.

If you are uncomfortable configuring your system yourself, consult someone you know and trust for assistance or contact the vendor directly.

Visit www.staysafeonline.org to learn more about how to keep your computer secure.

Wireless Networks (Wi-Fi)

Learn the risks associated with sharing your Internet connection.
If you use a wireless network without locking down your connection, any cyber thief with the right technology knowhow can see and steal any information entered online, including passwords, personal information and possibly even credit cards and financial information.

On a secure network, a cyber crook who wants to steal from you must break through layers of security to access your personal transactions, private messages and online habits. Unsecured and open wireless networks allow crooks to eavesdrop on your network connection and literally pull your information out of the air.

Firewalls
A firewall is usually your computer's first line of defense - it controls who and what can communicate with your computer online. Firewalls create a protective barrier between your network and the outside world by preventing access by unauthorized outside users. If a computer has no firewall, nothing is controlling who and what can enter and leave. Whenever a device is connected to a network, including the Internet, it can become a target.

Online safety doesn't stop when you leave home.
Open wireless networks are everywhere. Whether you go to a cafe, a school or an airport, remember that anyone walking behind you can see what you are doing. Someone can steal your passwords, see where you bank and learn a lot about you, just by looking over your shoulder. The same thing can happen on unsecured, open wireless networks.

Tips for Using Public Wireless Networks:

  • Avoid connecting to any Wi-Fi network unless you know it's secure.
  • Make sure the firewall on your laptop is turned on and updated.
  • Turn off the wireless network connection on your device when not in use to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Keep your device with you at all times to ensure your private information stays private.

For more information about network security, visit the CERT.gov Home and Busineess Security website.

Creating Strong Passwords

Passwords are a fact of life on the Internet today - we use them for everything from ordering flowers and online banking to logging into our favorite airline website to see how many miles we have accumulated.

Select a password that cannot be easily guessed. Strong, unique passwords have eight characters or more and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (e.g., # $ % ! ?). The more obscure the password, the more difficult it will be to hack.

Try not to use the same password for every service you use online. It is a good idea to use a different password for secure environments than the one you use for those that are less secure. This way if an attacker manages to find out what your "home" password is, they will not be able to follow you to work and use that information against you.

Change passwords on a regular basis. It is recommended that you change your passwords at least every 90 days. This can limit the damage caused by someone who has already gained access to your account.

Type your login and password every time you need to use it. Don't be lazy and let your computer auto-fill your login or save your passwords. If your password fills in automatically, malicious individuals could have easy access to all your information.

Test the strength of your password with Kaspersky's Secure Password Check