Computer Security – How To Save Your Sanity, Speed Up Your Computer and Beat the Bad Guys
Okay, I wrote this for the company I work for and have been updating it off and on for years. I just felt like it's a great idea to spread this information, so I'm reposting it here.
Is your computer slow? Odd popup messages? Spam? Weird messages when you try to use an application?
People always wonder why it happens to them. Everyone tries to be careful, they know they have anti-virus software, and they avoid web pages that they believe could be dangerous. So how does it keep happening?
Computers and the Internet have become a very important part of our businesses and our everyday lives. Where once computers were noisy, complicated, expensive devices run by mysterious codes and commands, now they are as easy as your microwave oven. Press a few buttons, and you can do amazing things, with more power in your phone than NASA used to go to the moon.
The challenge for all of us as computer users is that each have a responsibility to protect our workstations and other devices. There are literally millions of computer attacks happening every day, with new and creative ways to sneak onto your system being created all the time. With modern networks and the Internet, one infected machine can spread the damage to many others quickly and sometimes silently.
There are things that can be done to protect yourself, your company, your customers, and others. A minute of vigilance can save you hours of cleanup, explanations and apologies.
1. If you don’t need it, don’t download it.
Toolbars, weather monitors, screen savers, goofy games. They all have the potential to hurt your computer. If you see something that asks you to download a file, ask yourself what it is before you say yes. Check with OEC to make sure that your browser is configured to require that downloads be approved, and don’t let it do it automatically. If you are really unsure, give us a call. A minute on the phone or a quick email will save you a lot of pain!
2. Think about those links.
Everyone gets links to sites in their email, or on some ‘trusted’ web page. Do you need to visit them? Are they safe to visit? Any time you see a new link, compare it to what you would expect to see. An advertisement, a news flash out of the blue, watch these things! Often, you can hold your mouse over a link and it will show you where the link is really going. If it doesn’t match the text, it’s not safe.
3. Secure sites should be secure.
If you are using secure web pages such as for banking, downloading secure information, or providing personal information, make sure they are really secure. Modern browsers provide various ways to let you know what is secure. Look for a lock symbol – either by the site address at the top, or along the very bottom of the browser screen.
4. Keep your computer secure and up to date.
Your computer may be set to automatically update, or you may have to check yourself. Reboots are often needed to finish the updates, and are crucial to making sure that your computer is safe. Most computer updates are security fixes that are vital to making sure that you are safe on the Internet. Ask us if you have questions.
5. Check your browser – is it safe?
Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox all have their strengths and weaknesses, but all can be vulnerable to attack if they are not up to date. Check your browser version, watch for updates, and keep any ‘plugins’ up to date as well, if your browser uses them.
Internet Explorer 6.0 is obsolete. Even Microsoft is trying hard to eliminate its use. To check your version, click on Help… then About… Your version will be displayed. If you need assistance with getting it updated, let us know.
6. Think hard before you give any site your email address.
There are many web sites out there that want to send you things. There is generally nothing wrong with that, but be sure to pay particular attention to what they plan on doing with your email address and what you will be receiving from them. Most legitimate web pages provide you with a way to ‘opt out’ of emails other than what you are specifically requesting. Shopping web sites often send coupons or special offers you would like, but they also can end up sending a LOT of email. Eventually you forget that you’ve signed up for them after awhile and they just look like spam. Your business may have rules against using your computer for shopping. Even if they don’t, think about setting up a special free email account just to receive that kind of email, so that you don’t get overwhelmed with the ‘deals of the day.’
7. Make sure you understand what you are agreeing to.
Web sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and others often ask you when you sign up if it can look at your email accounts to add friends or other contacts. This is a great way to build up your connections quickly, but often comes with a caveat: It ALSO sends email to those accounts. This can be worrying, or frustrating, for your business associates and customers. Always be careful what you agree to, on any web page. If you are on Facebook, remember that many of the applications there send information to your friends list, and they may not want to see the extra, unneeded posts. Facebook links and applications are rarely affiliated directly with Facebook. Many times they should really be considered advertising by an outside company, that often uses the data you provide for things you may not want them to.
If you have signed up for an email list, and no longer need the information, unsubscribe from it. All legitimate email lists will provide an unsubscribe option, usually at the bottom of the email. It may be labeled as ‘Manage your account’, ‘Opt-out’, or just simply unsubscribe. On the other side, spammers also often provide a fake unsubscribe link. They use these to just push more spam on you, so you don’t want to try to use those, as they often make your spam issues worse. Trying to figure out which is which can be hard. Once again, don’t hesitate to call OEC with questions.
9. Don’t Use YAHOO
Yahoo was once a powerful, successful, thriving Internet center point. Search, news, email, and more, all available on a single site. Over the last few years it has been found that billions of users personal information, from passwords to addresses and more, has been stolen from their system, and it’s only going to get worse. They are still sifting through damage done in 2014 and 2015. If you have any Yahoo accounts, get rid of them now.
Finally, a shameless plug:
Office Equipment Company is here to assist you and your business. We want to protect your computers and your clients from unneeded hassles and aggravations. The information here has been built from years of experience as we have helped move our customers to the Internet, from dial-up to broadband. Give us a call or drop us an email to schedule an opportunity to show you how we can make your business better.
Office Equipment Company
3400 Franklin Boulevard
Eugene, OR 97403