These days, using the Internet is one of the most dangerous daily activities that you can undertake. Admittedly, the odds of bodily harm, other than carpal tunnel, are slim. The real danger lies in the potential impact web browsing can have on your personal identity and financial standing. Every computer connected to the Internet is a target of malware, viruses, and spyware, all of which are secretly installed onto your PC. The individuals behind these have one purpose in mind – to collect personal information about you and make money from what they learn about you.
Here are seven things you can do that can help you avoid the dangers:
- Don’t have a good hardware firewall router. Not having a good, separate active hardware firewall between your PC and your modem will let hackers have access to your network. A firewall is designed to permit or deny network traffic based upon a set of rules and it protects your networks from unauthorized access while permitting legitimate communications to pass. You want the firewall to have Denial of Service (DoS) protection and use Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI) to protect your network. (Just look for these on the box.)
- Don’t keep your Antivirus updated. With new viruses coming out every day, one sure way to get a virus is to not update your antivirus product. It’s bad enough that new viruses can get through prior to the software companies devising a way to stop them, but once a solution is devised, you want to get it. Update this daily.
- Don’t have antispyware. Spyware infections are just as dangerous as viruses. They secretly collect pieces of information about you. With spyware present on your system, you may open yourself up to identity theft and credit card fraud. You don’t want your PC “phoning home” with your personal information. Run an antispyware program at least weekly.
- Don’t keep your web browser updated. It’s important to keep your web browser up-to-date with the latest patches. Patches are coming out much more frequently now than ever before. Familiarize yourself with the built-in safe surfing features, and tweak the settings to ensure a high degree of protection. The browser providers realize that they have competition and that customers are expecting them to help provide a safe browsing experience. Check for updates weekly.
- Don’t keep Windows updated. Again, patch management is a key to keeping your systems secure. Microsoft sends out security updates once a month on “Patch Tuesday”. This is usually the second Tuesday of each month. Run the Windows Update as soon as they come out. This protects you from exploits to your from your OS, other Windows components, and the Microsoft Office Suite. Updates for other Windows products such as Microsoft Security Essentials (highly recommended) and Windows Defender are sent out much more frequently.
- Click on Pop ups. Never click on a pop up – whether it is from an antivirus program, Adobe, some other software, or any other so-called updates. Always go to the website directly to update any programs on your PC. Follow this golden rule -> If you are not sure, or even if you are sure, never ever click.
- Click on a link in an Email – especially if they are from a bank, credit card company, or services like Paypal. Only click on these if you want to let the world have your personal information. Never believe an email. Always go directly to the website by opening up a new browser session and do whatever you need to do. The same goes for Emails from social media sites.
Identifying where a link goes. One trick – If you hover over a link with your mouse, is should display the destination website in the bottom left or right of your web browser. Be sure to look at the last “www” address if there is more than one, as the last is the destination website.
Here is a link where you can find some great information and explanations about malware – http://www.kaspersky.com/threats_faq. If you have any questions about the security of your IT network, Trinity Worldwide Technologies can help you by assessing your specific IT environment and recommending the proper security measures for your organization. Please call us at 732-780-8615 for more information.
Microsoft has recently released their new operating system Windows 7. Many people, including me, have been running Windows XP for a long time. Things have been working well, so there has been no reason to upgrade. Now that XP is two generations behind, and many of us are looking to replace our old computers with newer ones we are left with a decision. Do we continue using an older operating system that has been working or do we upgrade to the new operating system? Well, with all the productivity enhancing features in Windows 7, plus the speed of Windows 7, there is no reason to not upgrade. I have recently switched to Windows 7 and will outline some of the key features I have found by using it.
- Improved Taskbar – If you have been using Windows XP for any amount of time you may be familiar with a plain taskbar that does not have many uses. When you first boot Windows 7 you will notice a huge difference in the taskbar. Sure it may look like the one in Vista, but believe me, it is much better. First, you will notice that there are no longer any differences between the Quick Launch area and the running programs area. They have combined the two giving you more room on the taskbar. You can tell which programs are running by the glass outline over the icon. You can place any program on the taskbar just by dragging the icon to it, or if you have the program running you can right-click on it and select “pin this program to taskbar”. This is not the only change though. In the notification area, the part of the taskbar near the clock, you will see that Windows 7 also hides the running programs. The difference is the ease in which you can manage what is hidden and what is not for each program. The last major difference is the taskbar previews. Just hover the mouse over the open program and move it over the preview to bring that window to the front of the screen.
- Jump Lists – If you are like most people, you want to make access to files and folders easier. To do this, you probably have lots of items on your desktop. Whether it is files, folders, or shortcuts, your desktop has probably become very cluttered. This has worked for so long because there was not an option that was better than this. Well, now there is. In Windows 7, Microsoft introduced a feature that will not only clean up your desktop, but make accessing both folders and files quicker. On the taskbar there is an icon of a folder, for Windows Explorer. To access the Jump List, all you have to do is right-click on the icon. Not only will you see folders you have visited frequently, but you can pin folders to the Jump List for easy access all the time. All of those shortcuts on your desktop for folders you frequently access can now be pinned to the Jump List simply by dragging the folder to the Windows Explorer icon on the taskbar. The Jump List’s don’t stop there though. If you have a Word or Excel file you frequently use, you can pin that to a Jump List as well. Just pin the Word or Excel program to the taskbar, and then pin the document or spreadsheet to that program’s icon just like you did with the folders. Now anytime you need to access that document there is no need to dig for it or have hundreds of icons on the desktop. Just right-click the program on the taskbar and choose that file and it will open right away.
- Improved Search – In previous versions of Windows, searching for files was always a hassle. You had to open the Search Companion and then refine your search on what you were looking for. Microsoft tried to make this better with the Search Indexer, but it was slow and took up a lot of CPU horsepower. In Windows 7 Microsoft refined the search indexer by building it into the operating system. Now everything is included in the index, even emails. Better yet, no more clicking around to get to the search feature, just click the Start button and start typing.
- Automatic Recognition of many devices – Throughout the previous versions of Windows installing printers, camera, and other devices was not fun. Often you would need to load the manufacturer’s software to get it to work, and then with all the extra software running on the computer, it would run more slowly. Now with Windows 7, many drivers are built in, and the ones that aren’t are automatically downloaded from the internet. Just by plugging in a printer or another device, Windows will recognize the device and install it for you. This makes installing devices much faster and keeps your computer running like new.
- Aero Interface – Probably one of the most exciting features of Windows 7 is the Aero Interface. While it might not be the most productive it is very useful, and really fun to play with. So what is the Aero Interface? Microsoft introduced the Aero Interface in Windows Vista, but has greatly improved it in Windows 7. Aero looks like glass, and even allows you to see through parts of the taskbar onto the desktop. Why is this interface in this list? Well there are times when this comes in handy. On the far right of the taskbar there is an area that is the Show Desktop icon. It is just to the right of the clock. Previously there was an icon in the Quick Launch for Show Desktop. When clicked, all the open windows would fall down into the taskbar showing the desktop. With Windows 7, hover the mouse over the Show Desktop and all the open windows will clear out, giving a glass look allowing you to see through to the desktop. Move your mouse off of the Show Desktop and all your open windows return where they were. A new feature in Windows 7, and possibly one of the most productive, is called Aero Snap. Just drag an open window to the top of the screen and let go and the window will go full screen. Drag the window to the right or left and get a half screen snap. This is great when comparing documents.
Switching to a new operating system is often a scary thing to do, but with all the productivity enhancements the upgrade is worth the effort. I think you will see that Windows 7 will help improve your work and is also fun to use.
I am sure you have heard about all the hacking activities going on in the Internet, some even targeting organizations that you would think would have their systems so tightly secured that no one would even think of trying to compromise.
None of us are immune to these hacking attacks. As small business owners, you might think that no one would be interested in breaking in to your computing system.
You may ask…”Why me?”
Let me tell you that it is not that the hackers are actually targeting you. To them, your computing system is just one of the myriads of devices out on the Internet. They use computer software that programmatically checks out different Internet addresses to see if there is any vulnerability. If they see one that responds, the software will try to log in, systematically using a list of commonly used passwords and words or word-combinations from the dictionary.
Many of you have very functional server systems that include remote access capabilities, giving you the ability to remotely work from home or when you are travelling. Guess what, the hackers use these remote access portals to try to hack in.
Are you alarmed yet? If not, you should be. These remote access portals are used by many companies around the world, and are designed to allow secure access for an increasingly offsite workforce. However, they are only as secure as the weakest link – most often, an insecure or simple password.
So my question is – is your organization still using the default password that was assigned for your users during the initial implementation of your server system?
That password was not meant to be kept around beyond the initial implementation period. If you are still using that password, or a simple variation of it, I strongly urge you to take immediate steps to change the password to something complicated.
Creating a “strong” password
For example, you could use the first letters of a favorite phrase like “Trust in the LORD with all your heart”. The password would then be TitLwayh. Now because it would be easy to remember your favorite phrase, you would have no problem remembering the complicated password, but a hacker would have a hard time figuring it out. To make the password even stronger, substitute the letter “i” with a number “1”, the letter “o” with the number “0”, and the letter “a” for the character @, which will make the resultant password T1tLw@yh.
How to change your password now
To change your password, while you are already logged on, press Ctrl-Alt-Del and click [Change Password]. Don’t forget to ask all the others in the company to do the same.
If you so desire, you can expire the password of all your users, forcing them to change it at the next login.
Do not wait until your computing system has been compromised before “closing the barn door”. Do it NOW!
By the way, “closing the barn door” once a server and network has been compromised could get pretty expensive, and could be very disruptive to your business.
We value your business. We trust you value our advice.