Tips for Safe Computer Practices

There is no doubt that using their PC’s safely is one of the top concerns of our clients. There are so many pitfalls — and it’s easy to make mistakes so, we’ve created a list of practical tips:

General

Use a firewall. A firewall is a barrier that protects a computer or network from anyone who tries to access it from outside without authorization. The firewall scans everything that goes through an Internet access point and filters it based on customized settings.

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and update it regularly. This is critical — this protection won’t do you any good if you don’t keep it updated or if you don’t run regular scans. It’s best to set it up to automatically install the latest patches and scan new files automatically.

Whether you use Windows or Mac, make sure you keep it up-to-date. For Windows, either visit Windows Update (http://update.microsoft.com) once a week, or you can set it to automatically update itself. We manage updates for our clients, so you’ll find that the updates are “controlled by your system administrator.”

Web Browsing

Don’t rely on your browser to protect you from malicious websites. Browsers only warn you about sites but cannot stop you from going there. Even if you have high security settings and anti-virus software, visiting a risky web site can result in viruses, spyware or worse.

Beware of windows or pages that prompt you to click a link to run software. Malicious web sites can create prompts that look like messages from your browser or computer. If you see a pop-up you think is risky, go to the company’s web site for scans and downloads.

Don’t provide personal information to get something free online. Criminals may use this data to break into personal or work accounts.

Watch for shortened URLs, and numbers, hyphens or special characters in a URL. Scammers manipulate URLs to trick users. Be wary of URL’s posted in Facebook and sent via email. Use a search engine to identify the actual URL.

When you use a search engine (like Google) be very careful of the result you click on. Hackers use legitimate looking topics to trick you into clicking. Scrutinize the URL to ensure you are going to a legitimate web site.

Never trust free content. Free movie, music and video downloads often include pirated content and just as often this content contains viruses and malware.

Email

Don’t open attachments. The old advice was not to open attachments unless you knew the sender. However, that’s no longer good advice since your friends and coworkerscan unknowingly send viruses, spyware and trojans if their computers are infected.

Don’t click on links in email. If you want to visit that website, type it into your browser.

Stay up to date and use the latest versions of your email program and browser. These often contain the latest security patches.

Read email in plain text. If you don’t know, ask us how. Also, send emails in plain text rather than HTML formatting. HTML messages contain any type of formatting other than text (e.g., fonts, bolding, italics), and/or they can include graphic images or colors. Although HTML messages may be nicer to look at, viruses can be transmitted via HTML messages.

Change your passwords at least once a month. Make sure your password contains both letters and numbers and is not something obvious, such as a word in the dictionary, your birthday or your dog’s name.

Never share your passwords. Scammers often try to seem like they are in positions of authority, and they insist you need to tell them your password. Don’t.

Always log out of your email account and web browser, especially if you share your computer or are in a public place. If no logout is available, simply quit the application.

Never respond to spam. As you know, one of our mottos is: “if it’s spam, it’s a scam.”

Back up your email regularly. If you do have a problem, at least you won’t lose important email.

To Reduce The Amount Of Spam You Get

Create a “junk” email address. Use it for any internet activity. It is best not to have any identifying information in your email address, such as full name, age, or location.

Keep your personal email address private. Don’t put your email address anywhere on the Internet, in a profile or on a personal website for example. It is worth using a separate account to your personal one when entering competitions or other things online that require an email address. Only give out your personal email address to family and friends.

Never reply to spam. Even if it says ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘Be removed from the list’ do not reply, as it may just confirm your email address to the sender and may mean you get even more spam!

Spam filters or junk mail filters can offer some protection by diverting suspected spam into a junk mail folder.