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Glen Allen, VA 23060

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Garth Callaghan

Napkin Notes Dad

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Top Ten Ways to Protect Your Digital Life

WGarth Callaghan

I am sure that you have heard the story of two hunters in the woods that accidentally stumble upon a bear. As the bear turns to them, the first hunter dahses away in the opposite direction. The second hunter is confused, and doens't think that they can outrun the bear. However, he also concedes that his fellow hunter may know something that he does not. He starts running and tries to catch up to the first hunter, and yells out, "Do you think we can outrun the bear? ” With a wink, the hunter replies, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.”

That's the basic fact with digital security. If someone really wants to get into your data, they just need time and advanced technology. Your job is to make sure that casual hackers find it too difficult to play with your data. Here are my "Top Ten" tips for you:

  1. Password protect your computer. This is easily the most overlooked "1st Step" in securing your computer.
    • XP Users - Click Start, Control Panel, User Accounts. Click "Change An Account" and choose your User Name. You will see the password settings there. Make your password strong. "Password" is the most common password out there and is the first thing any hacker will try. You can be creative here. If your name is Steve, you can choose stevespcpassword
    • Vista Users - Click Start, Control Panel, User Accounts & Family Safety. You will see the password settings there. Make your password strong. "Password" is the most common password out there and is the first thing any hacker will try. You can be creative here. If your name is Steve, you can choose stevespcpassword
  2. Protect Your Network #1 - Change the default password & network name in your local router. Every hacker and most PC technicians know all of the default passwords/network name combinations for every major router on the market. It takes about 10 seconds to hack that if you haven't changed the default settings.
  3. Protect Your Network #2 - Add wireless encryption to your network. Each manufacturer has a different interface, but it's easy to see from your laptop if your connection is encrypted. In this picture, there is a padlock next to my wireless network name, which means that I am protected. Use WPA, which is a good security level for homes and small businesses.
  4. Firewall – Even the Windows Firewall is better than nothing. Most network routers also have a Firewall built into them. Some Firewalls play better than others, and the list is constantly changing.
  5. AntiVirus – You need to run basic AntiVirus protection. If you can’t afford to pay $50 for the software, you can try AVG Free or AVAST.
  6. Anti-Spyware – Viruses aren’t the only bad things looking to get into your PC. Spyware is the fastest growing threat to your PC. Try Malwarebytes'Anti-Malware or SpySweeper.
  7. Windows Updates – Turn on Windows Updates to keep your PC up-to-date with the latest patches. Windows updates will download the latest security updates to protect against malware and other potentially unwanted software; Updates that improve reliability and performance; Upgrades to Windows features and Drivers from Microsoft partners.
  8. Basic Laptop Lock – All of these security steps won’t really help if your laptop gets stolen. Do you know how many unattended laptops I see in Starbucks every day? Check out these Kensington locks.
  9. Backup, Backup, Backup – Do I really need to tell you why it is important to backup your data? Check out Carbonite or iBackup for good solutions. The best backup solutions do the work for you automatically.
  10. Encrypt Your Hard Drive - This is a more advanced solution, but in today's world I highly recommend it. Do you have sensitive employee or client information on your computer? If so, you must encrypt it. You don't want to be responsible for letting that data excape into untrusting hands. TrueCrypt is a great solution as it balances tough secrutiy and an easy-to-use interface. http://www.truecrypt.org/
  11. BONUS - Stop using Internet Explorer. Switch to a more secure browser, like Firefox, Google Chrome, or Opera. You can still keep Internet Explorer on your PC in case you have a special need to use it.
I know that this list is tough for a non-techie. However, it is absolutely necessary to follow these steps in order to Protect Your Digital Life. Seek out your personal geek and schedule an appointment with them. They'll love you for it!