Sunday, January 31, 2010

It’s a dangerous (cyber)world out there...

I spent the morning up at Bessie’s helping her to reset her computer after a malicious virus attack. For her, the fix was straightforward, but I thought I’d take just a minute to share some recommendations on safe computing practices. Those of you with Macs will find some of these don’t apply to you.

Keep your operating system up-to-date. This does not mean jumping from, say, XP to Windows 7 (this is considered a major operation, and should not be undertaken without consultation), but it does mean making sure that you have the most recent version of the OS you have. If it’s XP, it should be Service Pack 3 (May 6, 2008). If it’s Vista, it’s SP2 (May 26, 2009). For other versions, see [HERE]. If you use a non-standard OS like Linux, I suspect you know already where to look. I don’t know that this is necessary for Mac users.

Make sure your computer’s firewall is turned on. Do not buy it flowers or give it romantic compliments. Instead, click [HERE] for a handy fix-it tool for Win XP or [HERE] for one for Vista. There’s a switch in Windows 7 under the Control Panel. I don’t know how to do it in any other OS, but if you need help, ask. I’m sure I can figure it out.

Install and regularly update antivirus software. I use AVG Free (download [HERE]) together with SpyBot: Search and Destroy (available from their site [HERE]). Both are free and, together, to an excellent job of keeping my system free of adware, spyware and viruses. I have a routine of updating them and running checks once a week (I set them to run in the middle of the night on the weekends, while I’m asleep). How you set your own software up is entirely a matter of personal preference, but if you don’t have it, you run the risk of infecting your machine--and everyone else’s--every time you connect to the Internet or download or copy a file from outside your system.

Use safe email and data security practices. Immediately delete any email you know to be fraudulent, or that has attachments you don’t recognize. Especially, do not click to open any attachments unless you are absolutely certain both of the source and the content of the message. Think before you share information you receive via email from unfamiliar sources (you guys with Macs are responsible for keeping people safe, too). Log out of networked computers when you’re done. Enable password protections (and keep the passwords secure). Do not use unsecure WiFi networks if you bank, buy or send private information over the web. Safeguard your personal information!

Be safe, be careful, be responsible. Help others to be the same.


the passionate hairdresser said...

When I click on the link you left for the firewall in XP, it comes back with a message saying the page doesn't exist! ???

Wayfarer said...

Sorry, Bessie! For some reason, Blogger added something weird to the hyperlinks that prevented them from going where they should. The matter has been rectified.

Thank you for saying something! I can go and fix another post that has the same problem.