Seven Steps to Better Online Security

Updated 07-03-2016   It’s true.  Nothing will impress upon you the importance of online security like being hacked.

As a recipient of a recent attack–which, thankfully, compromised no data but created a huge headache in time, effort, and energy for resetting passwords and reloading software–I can share that our cognizance about online security has been heightened by my personal “close encounter of the ugly kind.”   And it has brought a huge problem more closely to bear–and illustrates a question to be answered:  “What on earth motivates these events?”   If the attempt is to steal data worth money, they’d do better to ‘go on down the road’ from me, because, as my Grandpa used to say, “there’s just not much there that can be got”!

If the answer to that question is “glory, guts, and honor,”  I’m not sure that breaking into a computer online offers glory, guts and honor.   I’ve always tried to be open to understanding the viewpoint and motivation of others, but as I get older, it seems that specific personality quality is becoming less and less verifiable, and my antagonism toward events that I just don’t understand the “why” of– is becoming larger and larger.

Here are seven key thoughts about keeping your computer safe from inquisitive minds and prying eyes.

  1. If you need to go to a new URL, know the URL.  If you don’t know the URL, don’t guess.  Look it up via Google or Bing.  Or any one of 10,000 different search engines you can use.
  2. Attachments to email?  Don’t do it.  Just don’t.   Don’t open attachments from people that you don’t know. Even if you think you might know them.  Did you meet them at a party?  Want to take that chance?  I can’t tell you how many Snapchat invites I’ve gotten where someone met me at a party last Friday night.  I’m not what you’d call a party animal, so that invite gets deleted.  Fast.
  3. Don’t ever assume that just because an email appears to be from a friend,  it is.  Surely you’ve seen some of     those emails that appear to be coming from you, addressed to you in your inbox or spam filter?  C’mon, give me a break.  Especially if it’s from a friend you haven’t spoken with in a long time.  Read the subject line.  Does it make sense to you?  Probably not.
  4. Don’t assume that the email you receive– from a bank you don’t bank with, have never banked with, and don’t intend to bank with—is legitimate.  As a matter of fact, assume it’s not legitimate.  If your bank doesn’t communicate with you normally via email, why would you even open an email you might receive from a bank you don’t know and doesn’t know you?
  5. Hey, big winner.  No, you haven’t won any type of sweepstakes.  Except the “Look Ma, I got a virus!! Sweepstakes”— if you open that email.  Those who believe in the tooth fairy are often the first recipients of a cavity in the tooth.  Not any money under your pillow.  Money doesn’t grow on trees.  Rarely does it grow in your inbox.
  6. Let me make a blanket statement here and say that if you get an email from the IRS, unannounced, it’s probably not a real email from the IRS.  Especially if it gives you a telephone number to call and when you call it, an “officer” advises you to send money or you will be arrested for tax fraud within 45 minutes.  If the IRS wants to communicate with you, they will.  And you’ll know the communication is really from the IRS.
  7. The Internet has an amazing cornucopia of information available.  Some of it might not be highest quality, or participate in best practices.  Information you seek may be compromised, even without the owner’s knowledge and concurrence.  Don’t ever assume that your information is safe.  Always assume that someone, somewhere, at sometime, is looking over your shoulder.  Because when you key a letter into your computer keyboard, that keystroke is saved.  Somewhere.  Probably forever.  And everyone who is exposed to that information may not be as honest as you are.

If you even think you’ve been hacked, run your antivirus or antimalware program.  Don’t even hesitate.  To be sure, run it again.  Time does not become an issue here when all your work may be compromised.

And if you really have an issue, give us a call at 800-335-9269 or Direct at 1-917-224-6782.  We may be able to help you before you realize ten years of data just disappeared.  At the very least, we can sympathize while you recover your data.  After all, you do have a backup, right?

 

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