Are you that person when it comes to computer passwords? The one that uses the same password on every site? The one whose password is your kids’ names, or your birthday, or 1234567890? Are you that person?
Chances are, most of you reading this article are doing one of those things. You’re also probably sitting in front of a non-password protected computer with Avast!, Kaspersky, McAfee or Norton antivirus on a wireless network with no security key. If you are, you have nothing to be ashamed about. You’re doing what you know. Unfortunately for most people, what they know isn’t very much in terms of digital security.
Now, if you’re sitting on your home computer and aren’t picking up your neighbor’s wireless signals, that’s probably not such a big deal. That means that nobody is likely to be there trying to break into your WiFi to monitor your internet activity. Your antivirus should keep out most major key-logging viruses, and there’s nobody trying to access your machine physically. However, it could be a problem if you take your laptop out into the wild. It’s a big problem if your computer is a part of your business.
You’re also not alone. Security breeches can happen to anyone, as Target recently found out the hard way. Most of the time they can be linked to a simple cause: weak security protocol. To keep yourself safe on the net, there are some simple rules you can follow to beef up your security. It doesn’t take much to fix, and everyone can afford it.
Visceral Concepts’ Computer Security Best Practices
- Use a password generator to create your passwords. I recommend at least 10 characters composed of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and any other symbols that your account settings will allow. Norton has an easy to use free one here.
- Give each online account a unique password. Duplicate passwords make it easy for a security breech to spread quickly.
- If you have trouble remembering your passwords, download a password keeper. This way you only have to remember one master password. Keepass is a good free option.
- Never allow your browser to save account information. Browsers are easy to hack.
- Always password protect anything that gives you the option to.
- Change your passwords every couple of months. If a breach has occurred without you knowing, this will prevent it from continuing.
- Secure your wireless network with a strong password using WPA-2 encryption. Most internet providers have this set up standard. For those of us who buy our own wireless routers, you’ll need to do this manually.
- Password protect your router’s settings. If you don’t, anyone on the network has access to change them.
- Use a combination of antivirus software. On a Windows system, I suggest Malwarebytes Ant-Malware combined with Microsoft Security Essentials. Both are free and play nice together. For Mac, use Sophos, which is available free in the app store.
- Never ever ever ever make an online purchase or access your financial accounts from an unsecured wireless network. You can almost bet that someone is watching for it.
- Never send sensitive information via email. Email is the least secure form of communication in the world.
- If you do find a breach that involves your finances, notify your financial institutions immediately. Have them flag your account for possible fraud.
- If you believe your computer has been infected by a virus that your antivirus can’t remove, contact a professional right away.
I know it seems like a long list of things, but these simple rules don’t take as long to implement as they do to read, and they will improve your security by a thousand-fold. A little inconvenience now can save you a ton of headache in the future.