Yesterday, the computer literacy group I volunteer with received a number of handouts about computer security when on the Internet. I know sometimes I laugh these off, and I’m not about to stop putting myself out there in cyberspace, but I do need to be careful. So as a reminder to myself and a checklist for others, here are some security precautions we should follow. There are probably a lot more, so please comment and let us know your tips for keeping safe online.
- Always make backups of important information and store in a safe place separate from your computer (with the power of those little memory sticks, this is easy).
- Turn off your computer and disconnect from the network when not using the computer. A hacker cannot attack your computer when you are disconnected from the network or the computer is off. Since my husband says I don’t have a technical bone in my body, I also turn the power to my computer off. Reason tries to tell me that if the computer isn’t on, no one can access it, but you never know!
- Update and patch your operating system, web browser and software frequently. (This one I need to work on).
- Install a firewall. Without a good firewall, viruses, worms, Trojans, malware and adware can all easily access your computer from the Internet. Just typing this list makes me feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Instead of repeating “lions and tigers and bears”, it’s “viruses and worms and Trojans, oh my!”
- Review your browser and email settings for optimum security. At a minimum set your security setting for the “Internet zone” to High, and your “trusted sites zone” to Medium Low (another area I need to think about more).
- Install anti-virus software and set for automatic updates so that you receive the most current versions. My favourite anti-virus software is still AVG. And even though I use the free version, it works better than Norton ever did for me.
- Do not open unknown email attachments. It is simply not enough that you may recognize the address from which it originates because many viruses can spread from a familiar address. I can vouch for this one, since I got a Trojan once from an attachment that had been sent by a friend. The virus was in his address book and automatically sent itself out to everyone he had listed there. By the time my friend realized it, the infection had spread to a lot of people. Now I rarely open attachments, and if I do, I scan them first. (See, I’m learning to be careful).
Okay, more tips, please. I know you’re just itching to tell me.