In this digital world, we need to also be prepared for everyday type of stuff, and with most people having a personal computer at home, you should need to be prepared for potential computer issues.
With all of the cyber crime that we’re starting to experience, if you aren’t already employing good computer security, you should start now.
Post-show note: In this podcast, I say “firewire,” but I mean firewall. Another slip of the tongue.
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Good General Computer Security Practices – Things you can do for better computer security.
Notes for this section:
- I’m not going to get too deeply into this topic, as you can go really far down this rabbit hole. What I want to do is cover the basics and a little beyond that, as there are some simple things that can really increase your computer security. If you’re someone that wants the maximum about of security on your computer, you probably already know what you need to do.
- The principle of least privilege. This is where you log into your computer as a user and not at an admin. The thought is that by not being logged in with admin privileges, it will be harder for malware to take advantage of admin rights. When I was still using Windows, I tried running it this way. It’s a pain. This concept is, more or less, native to the Mac OS, in that the root user is abstracted from all users, and the admin accounts need to give permission anytime something gets installed. I find this works much better and is simpler to manage. Perhaps Windows has fixed this, but I really wouldn’t know as I only use Windows to run 1 program at work, and this is done in virtualization.
- Having good security can protect you on several different levels:
- Physical – preventing data loss and theft if stolen or the computer is damaged.
- Opportunistic – keeping your computer from nuisance theft or pranks.
- Malware – viruses, trojans, etc.
- Hacking – It happens. The less secure a computer is, the more likely it is to happen. You probably won’t even know that it’s happening or has happened.
- I once co-owned a server with a friend of mine. He and I were the only two people to have the password to the server. Yet, we discovered that we had been hacked when the server started using massive amounts of bandwidth, as hackers were using it as a file share node. Long story short is that they had open access to the server because they had our password. While we were careful to pick a good password, my friend stored the password in plain text on his computer. When his computer was remotely hacked, they found the server info, along with the password.
- Passwords – choose a long and difficult password to check.
- Your passwords are the keys to your digital information. You need to keep them secret and secure.
- In general, length is more important than randomness, but both is better.
- Do not use the same password for everything.
- Passphrases are better than passwords.
- Use a password vault to make it easier. 1Password or LastPass are options to consider.
- I have been using 1Password for about 4 years now and it’s great. It allows me to create very long strings of random letters, numbers and characters for each website. These are stored and automatically filled in on the site when I need them. There’s also an iOS and Android version, so you can have access to your passwords with you everywhere, but kept securely. They do have a Windows version.
- Here’s an article on how it can be easy to guess or find your password: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/01/choosing_secure.html
- Choosing a secure password:
- Lock your computer when you are away from it.
- Disconnect your computer from the Internet when you aren’t using it. More important for Windows users than other operating systems, but it’s not a bad idea in general. If your computer isn’t connected to the rest of the world, the rest of the world can’t get into it.
- Evaluate your security settings often. No fewer than every few months, go over your security settings to make sure that they are still properly set.
- No Java in the web browser.
- Java in itself isn’t the issue, so long as the Java program that’s running is trustworthy. The big issue is having Java run in your browser.
- Took some of this from: http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST04-003.html
- Maintain software and OS updates.
- Encrypt your hard drive.
Good General Computer Practices – Subtitle
Notes for this section:
- Protect your computer against power surges and brief outages.
- Computer backups: Back up all of your data frequently. The more important your data is, or the more often it changes, the more frequently you need to back up.
- Installing programs and apps – You should always know when something is being installed. If you didn’t request that an app or program install, don’t approve it.
- Use a VPN whenever you’re not on your home network. If you can do so at work, too, all the better, but the IT departments of many companies would probably frown on that.
- Web surfing – You have to be cognizant when your surfing the Internet. don’t go to websites that are shady or are known to have malware. These include adult sites and file-sharing site, AKA warez sites.
- Anti-virus programs – If you are on Windows, you should be running an anti-virus program. If you’re on a Mac, you probably don’t need it, but I would suggest that you consider it. Most malware for the Mac OS involves you having to do something stupid, like downloading illegal software or giving installation permission to something you didn’t request.
- I run an app called ClamXAV on my Mac and configured it to scan any file that is added to certain folders. These folders include the Downloads folder, my Dropbox folder, my email folders, and the folder that I share with Windows that I have to run for that single program at work. These folders are where malware would get into my system without my knowledge. And, to be sure, it catches scores of emails that have trojans and other viruses in them. None of these would directly affect my Mac, as they’re written to exploit Windows machines, but it’s nice to know that I’m not passing these along to my fellow coworkers. Incidentally, all of these emails that contain malware are from emails that I’m forced to monitor for work.
- Using the Cloud. If you use a Cloud service, like Dropbox or Google Drive, you have to understand that you’re giving a 3rd party service permission to access your computer. These services add a lot of functionality to our computers, but I think that precautions need to be made. Be careful which apps you grant permission to use the service and follow it up with monitoring these with an virus scanner, especially if you share a folder with someone else.
- Should you send messages, like email and chat, encrypted?
- Two schools of thought. 1) Yes, as it secures your privacy. 2) No, because it’s a red flag that you have something to hide.
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