Viruses, Malware, and Hackers – oh my!

Like a lot of you, I do some shopping at Target and today I signed up for free credit monitoring.  Target is offering this to their customers following last year’s data breach when hackers gained accessed to credit and debit card information.  While most of us don’t have home computing systems as large and complex as Target’s, we likely store personal and private information on our home PC’s.  What can the average home user do to keep our systems safe? Here are some tips in a guest post from Randy Bunnell, an information security consultant.

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We used to worry about locking our doors and setting the alarm; now we’re being hacked by a kid with a laptop beaching on the Black Sea.  It was a busy year for computer crime and a few incidents hit close to home.  Banks were knocked offline, credit cards were stolen and PC’s were held for ransom.  No one is immune in this interconnected world, but you can take some precautions to lessen the risks.

Here are a few tips to protect your computing devices at home.

  • Install a router and use a DNS service.  DNS is the phonebook for the internet and these companies are constantly searching for bad websites.  You need this barrier between your internet connection and your home devices.  It’s not enough, but it’s a good start.
  • Patch, patch and patch – automate patches if you can and don’t just patch your operating system – applications including browsers and anti-virus programs need to be kept up to date too.
  • Don’t use your administrator account for daily use – set up user-only profiles especially if you share the computer.  Most applications need administrative permissions to install.  The really paranoid use a separate computer for business and online banking – separate where you can.
  • Use a strong anti-virus, anti-malware and anti-phishing product.  These are usually bundled with a firewall.   And run a full scan at least a weekly – this helps keep the bugs away.
  • Think before you click. E-mails and texts that look legitimate may be coming from a malicious user.  Delete it if it looks suspicious – better safe than sorry.
  • Backup your PC; you don’t want to lose those pictures and important documents.  There are a number of cloud backup solutions that are inexpensive, or you can hook up an external hard drive.

Storing data in the cloud

There are a lot of good resources that offer assistance.  Stay informed and be vigilant.

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Randy Bunnell, founder of Secnado, a security services firm, has 20 years of experience as an information security consultant in the financial services industry.

 

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