HOW TO STAY SAFE ON A DANGEROUS INTERNET
8 tips to keep yourself secure
Somewhere around 3.5 Billion people are now surfing the web. There are several thousand “hackers”. So if you figure a somewhat small percentage of hackers successfully get into a very small percentage of computers, you still have quite a large number of infected computers out there in the Interwebs. This makes for a not so safe environment while you are shopping, doing your banking or working on your financial future, or even just while you are looking at cat videos on FaceBook. To make it worse, some of those hackers infect hundreds of thousands of computers and then rent them out to other hackers (or hacker wannabe’s) to perform their nefarious activities. So how in the world can you stay safe on the Internet?
Good fully featured AV
Use an antivirus that is purchased and has a full feature set. Free antivirus products are worth just about as much as you pay for them, and maybe even a little bit less because they give a false sense of security. They have no reason to work that hard to keep you safe – they have no “skin in the game”. A few good antivirus products are BitDefender, WebRoot and Sophos, and even though they are free, Microsoft Security Essentials or Windows Defender. Microsoft does have skin in the game, and if you really are going to go for a free product, choose Microsoft.
Sometimes this feature is included in an antivirus with a full feature set, but sometimes it is sold separately. We use one product that does normal antivirus and anti-malware “stuff” and a completely separate one that does web filtering. Web filtering basically keeps you away from bad and infected sites and is a very important security layer.
GET RID OF FLASH!
Adobe Flash is full of bugs and exploits, so full that many experts recommend getting rid of it including noted security blogger Brian Krebs. Unless you actually need it, uninstall it and do without. You’ll be much more secure without it.
Good Passwords/Password manager
In these days and times, you really do need good, strong passwords, and I don’t mean using a word with a capital letter at the beginning and a number or character at the end. Those are not hard to break at all. Instead, at the very least try pass phrases. By that, I mean something like – IeatSt3akonSaturday$ (I eat steak on Saturdays). You might also try using a good secure password manager like LastPass. If you use an IT Managed Services Provider, ask them what they suggest. There are several good ones and the cost is minimal. Password managers will keep your passwords in an encrypted vault that only you have the password to. Also, don’t use the same password for everything. Should one service be compromised, all of your services are compromised. I know that we all have about a million passwords to remember, so using strong passwords and a password manager is a great way to stay secure.
Filter out SPAM
Make sure your email service has a good SPAM filter in front of it. Quite a bit of malware still gets through via email, either in links or attachments. A SPAM filter will screen for bad attachments and SPAM that can cause you security issues. Again, if you use free email and trust the SPAM filter in it; number one the bad guys like you; two, it is worth as much as you pay for it and the integrated SPAM filtering it comes with.
Employ a good firewall
A good firewall is a must these days. We’ve talked about it a few times on this blog. If you buy a cheap on at one of those big box stores, you don’t get anything but a very basic firewall. Get one that includes UTM features (Unified Threat Management). Some common UTM features are scanning for viruses, botnets, malware, etc in real time as it is in transit through the firewall to your computer. There is nothing that is bullet proof, but these are very good options to deploy to protect your business, or even your home network.
NEVER talk to someone who contacts you first – via email or phone with personal details
Should you ever get a call from “Microsoft” telling you that your computer is compromised, hang up! They don’t actually do that. Make sure emails you get that ask for any information are legitimate (SPAM filters help some with this too). It is a good idea to look up contact information for a company and call or email them if they’ve contacted you first. Always be vigilant when dealing with any kind of personal information.
Only install programs and plugins from trusted sources
Always make sure that you install programs and plugins from trusted sources and even then, make sure you watch all steps of the install and uncheck any components or included third party software. It takes a lot of work to develop software and folks don’t actually give it away for free and get nothing from it. Several software makers will allow other companies to bundle software with theirs for a fee, therefore giving it to you for “free”. Downloading free software is a very easy way to get extra little hitchhikers that can cause you heartburn.
Using these tips will go a long way to keeping you safe. Nothing is 100% bullet proof, but the bad guys aren’t looking for folks that are really hard to crack, they are looking for the easier ones. Except for unplugging your computer, layered security is the absolute best defense to the threats out on the wild and wooly web.