Virtual doors Keep Out the Uninvited

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Christopher Burgess

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If you’re reading this blog, you and your family are connected to the internet; your entrée to the internet is via a laptop, desktop PC, smart-phone, or other such devices and you have one, two maybe three separate service providers.

Your connected devices allow you and your family the opportunity to literally bring the world to your doorstep.

And we want the world to come to our door via the internet – as the internet brings to us knowledge, enhances our ability to communicate, provides us opportunities to share and collaborate with others and of course enables us to conduct commerce and be entertained.

Fortunately, if your online experiences are like mine, the people and services you encounter are with great folks and honest companies or as I like to say, “They are Ivory Snow 99 44/100th percent pure of heart; honest and without hidden agendas.

There exists unfortunately, a malicious minority of individuals, as well as, organized criminal entities which prey on those of us whose online virtual doors are invitingly open.

So let’s begin to close those virtual doors and keep out the uninvited.

  • Computer Security:
    • Anti-virus and anti-spyware software – enable automatic updates and scan, every day for viruses, malware, crimeware and spyware. In addition, scan every device which attaches to your computer, every time it attaches. My rationale is, that device may have been inserted into a computer that is infected and thus the device is a “carrier” of a computer virus or malware and waiting to be transmitted to next computer it touches. (Tips 8, 12 & 13)
    • Firewall - similarly, make sure your web browser or security software has the firewall option enabled. Why? Think of the firewall as your computer’s guard force – blocking attempts to communicate with your computer from those whom you haven’t authorized. (Tip 18)
    • Computer Security Scans – every day you should run a security scan on your computer – every day. (Tip 19)
  • Home Network Security:
    • Using a wireless router to create a home WI-FI network? Enable WPA2 encryption and create a strong password (letter, number & symbol, not a word in a dictionary). If your router does not support WPA2 encryption, it is, in my opinion, time to upgrade that router. If you give the password to a visitor, say a house guest, change the password. And don’t forget to configure your router so that your SSID (Service Set Identifier) is suppressed. This configuration will keep your network private from those outside your home (see this piece from the TODAY show “Is your Wi-Fi connection safe”.) (Tips 3 & 4)
  • Computer Control:
    • Guests? Do you allow house guests to use any of the computers in your home? I recommend creation of guest accounts with separate log-in for your guests so they have their own environment on the computer w/o access to your personal data or browser history or cookies.  (Tip 22)
    • Administrator? Control the admin functions of a computer and you essentially control the computer. Take control, set a unique password so that the computer settings can only be changed by the administrator, you. (Tip 11)
    • Auto-run or not to auto-run? Disable Auto-Run and scan all USB/CD/DVD even if you received it from a trusted source, their USB/CD/DVD may be ill from having visited a machine with malware/crimeware prior to visiting yours. (Tip 8)

So where do you find reputable vendors for the aforementioned software?

Let me point you to the non-profit Get Net Wise website where a comprehensive list of reputable security vendors is available; another resource for free security scan software from a list of reputable vendors is the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Regardless of the vendor selected, always enable the automatic update function on your software. Vendors find unknown and unexpected vulnerabilities in their products and their avenue to close those vulnerabilities is via the update.

In closing, the online world enabled by the internet is wondrous place. Train your family to follow the above safety steps, and to call out any warnings or advisories generated by the tools being used to safeguard your family and your online experiences will be so much more enjoyable.

Cross-posted from Veritate et Virtute

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