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10 VERY BASIC COMPUTER AND DEVICE SECURITY TIPS

March 2015

There are many steps and best practices you can take to protect your computer and electronic devices from theft, viruses, malware, data loss, and identity theft. Here are 10 very practical and basic steps that everyone can take to protect their computers, phones, and tablets.

Note 1: When leaving your computer (home desktop and laptop), lock it (Ctrl + Alt + Delete), or turn it off. This will prevent someone from accessing your computer when you are not around. A best practice is to enable your computer screen saver and select the password lock feature, upon a specific idle time. For more information, contact an IT professional or perform an online search / YouTube video search for necessary steps to accomplish this task.
Note 2: If you use a computer that is not your own, be sure to logoff from all accounts accessed. We have all seen malicious messages on social media from friends who forgot to logoff from the public library computer.

Note: Most mobile devices now have GPS enabled tacking features built it in for misplaced or lost mobile devices. Contact your vendor or mobile carrier for more information or visit mobile carrier website on the steps to accomplish this task.

  1. Never leave your mobile computer (i.e.: laptop) or mobile device (i.e.: iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle, etc.) unattended in public. If you have to leave any or all of these devices in your car, place them in the trunk. If possible, disable the auto trunk release in your car.
  2. Use strong passwords. You can use words that you remember and substitute numbers with letters and symbols. For example, if your pet’s name is Marli and your best friend’s name is Lauren you can use the following – M@r1I-1@ur&N. You can test the strength of your password by going to: www.howsecureismypassword.net. You can see below that the password we just created will take 344 thousand years to crack!
  3. Lock your phone and tablet after short intervals. The newer iPhone’s and Android devices let you set up biometric fingerprint access which is cool, secure and convenient. If your phone is stolen, this will help protect your data.Note: If your phone is stolen, notify your carrier immediately. They will deactivate the number and register your phone as stolen so it won’t be able to be reactivated. Also file a police report.
  4. Keep your software updated. Software and application developers release updates to secure know vulnerabilities that could make your computer or devices susceptible to viruses. There are free applications available that will automatically check for software updates. You can simply search “Automatic Software Updates” and you can choose the one that is right for you. This includes desktop, laptop, and mobile devices. Ensure both the operating system (i.e.: Apple iOS, Windows 8.1, Android, etc.) and applications (i.e.: Office 2013, Flash, Java, etc.). Contact your local IT professional for further assistance and guidance.
  5. Backup your data. You can back data up to an external device (i.e.: Flash Drive, etc.) or you can back it up in the cloud using backup software. Dropbox, Onedrive, Google Docs, etc. are applications that allow you to store and share documents in the cloud. Typically the first 5GB of cloud storage space is free! You can access the data on any computer or mobile device.
  6. Install and enable automatic updates of Antivirus and Malware software on your computer. Most systems can stay running in the background. There are lots of free versions available online. Ensure automatic updates is enabled, to receive up to date virus protection from installed provider. Contact your local IT professional for assistance and guidance.
  7. Ignore unsolicited email and never open an attachment that you are not expecting. Some viruses search your computer for known contacts and disguise emails to look like they have come from a trusted source. If you are wary of an email or attachment, delete it. It is not worth the risk of having your device compromised.
  8. Never respond to an email requesting your username, password, or sensitive information, known as Phishing. A technology professional or vendor would never ask you for your password or private information. It is against basic best practices and can compromise your computer and identity. If you cannot access an account or have an issue with an application, contact the vendor directly by phone. Never share your password with someone on the other end of an email. You never know who is watching.
  9. Turn on your computer’s firewall. All Macintosh and Windows computers have basic desktop firewalls as part of the operating systems. Ensure these are turned on. Contact your local IT professional or conduct a basic online search on steps to enable your computers firewall.
  10. Install a Remote Data-Wipe Application on your phone and computer. There are free applications that can be downloaded that can perform this function. If your computer, phone or table is lost or stolen, you can erase your data using this software.

These simple tips should help you protect your computers and electronic devices!