Save your computer first!

Posted: October 1, 2012 by IntentionalPrivacy in First Steps, Tips

The first thing you want to do is to learn how to keep your computer more secure. Brian Krebs at KrebsOnSecurity has an excellent article where he lists three basic rules for online safety http://krebsonsecurity.com/2011/05/krebss-3-basic-rules-for-online-safety/. I’m listing his rules (his article has more information):

1. If you didn’t go looking for it, don’t install it!I totally agree about downloading from the source and taking the time to read comments and reviews from other users. Ditto about responding directly for requests to information from email alerts from any organization.

2. If you installed it, update it. He recommends Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector. I use it myself, because I can’t keep up with all the updates for my installed programs without it. For instance Secunia alerted me to the fact that Adobe Flash has a certificate problem. You can read about Adobe’s latest issue here: http://helpx.adobe.com/x-productkb/global/certificate-updates.html

3. If you no longer need it, remove it.” Yes! This rule not only makes your computer safer, getting rid of those junky old programs could make it run faster. Who doesn’t want a faster computer?

Now, I would like to add a couple of rules of my own:

4.Make sure you are running an up-to-date antivirus program.” There are several places that you can check out to find the best antivirus for your situation. One place that compares antivirus packages is the AV-Comparatives at http://www.av-comparatives.org/. Another place to check out antivirus software is the Virus Bulletin at http://www.virusbtn.com/vb100/archive/test?recent=1. Wikipedia also compiled a list of antivirus software and their features at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_antivirus_software .

For our PCs, I use Microsoft’s free Security Essentials antivirus program; before Security Essentials came out, I ran ESET. While ESET is not free, it was cheaper than McAfee or Norton. It was easy on system resources and it worked really well for me. For the Mac, I have used the paid version of Sophos and it seemed ok. Now, Sophos has a free version for the Mac. A lot of Mac users I know like Clam antivirus. You will have to evaluate what will work best for you based on what you need from an antivirus. For instance, do you often get malicious software, called “malware”? If so, you might want to consider something like ESET.

5. “Make sure your firewall is working both on your computer and the device you use to connect to the Internet.” To find out how to set up the firewall for your Internet device, you can Google the exact name of the device, read the instructions that came with it, or if you received the device from your Internet provider, you may be able to get assistance from them.

6. “Consider using the Do Not Track add-on in your browser.” The Do Not Track website has articles explaining what the add-on does and how to enable it. Personally I am currently using the Firefox browser running NoScript to browse the web. While Microsoft recently released a critical update for Internet Explorer that fixes the most recent vulnerability, I like the control Firefox running NoScript gives me over the scripts running on any particular website.

7. “Back up your documents!” This is a biggy. What happens if your computer disk crashes, if malware erases your documents, if your computer is stolen, if your house catches fire? All your documents, songs, pictures could be gone. There are open-source backup solutions available and even cloud backup is available for free if you don’t need much space. Read the fine print carefully, don’t store your only copy of your documents online, and I recommend encrypting any confidential information before you store it anywhere online. Another gotcha: Don’t lose the password!

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