All of us know that our homes may be burglarized, and we take steps to help keep that from happening. We lock our doors and windows, we install motion detector lights outside, we put in alarm systems and some of us even install cameras. The same goes for the other stuff we do and own. We lock our cars, we put our valuables in safe deposit boxes and we avoid dangerous areas of the city late at night. We even watch what we say when we are talking on the phone, because we worry someone might be listening in. We all know that we ourselves are responsible for looking after these things. So why do we all seem to think that it is somebody else’s job to make sure we are safe while we are using our computers to surf the net or catch up on Facebook? We do, though. I’ve seen it happen and I’ve been guilty of it myself, I’m sorry to say.
For some reason, we don’t think a thing about using our kid’s name and age as our email password. It doesn’t enter our minds that it may not be a good idea to do our home banking while we are sipping a latte at Starbucks. And it doesn’t bother us a whit that our home wireless network doesn’t require a password – they’re a lot of trouble, after all! But when we get hacked, the first thing we do is blame everybody from our ISPs to the companies that built our devices. I think part of the reason is that we think the whole computer thing is too technical and there is really nothing that we can do ourselves. But that simply isn’t true. The biggest part of computer security is just mundane, common sense stuff.
The most important thing is to understand what is really going on when you are on the Internet, and it can be summed up in on phrase; you are communicating in public. You might as well be standing in the town square shouting back and forth at each other. One of the only real differences is that a lot of what you’re doing is not only public, it’s being recorded as well! So, thinking with that mindset, how would you go about keeping your privacy?
First, you wouldn’t trust anyone to keep quiet and protect your secrets for you, would you? So, when you are on the Internet, always be suspicious. Make sure that that email from your bank or your co-worker is legit, don’t just click on the link. Be very suspicious of anything with attachments, and don’t just blithely open any document that is sent to you unsolicited. And if you get an urge to go to that neat looking gambling site or you hanker to click on that link that says they will show you your favorite celebrity with their pants down, suppress it! Also, take a look every once and awhile and see what has really been happening on your computer. Your machines are usually keeping really good logs. Look them over and see if anything seems funny to you. You don’t have to be an expert, just curious.
Next, be leery if your machine starts acting funny. Maybe it gets really slow once in a while. Perhaps you turn it on and a message says “Download Complete”, but you don’t remember downloading anything. Lots of different things like that can occur. But when they do, and then your computer starts acting normally again, don’t just blow it off; check into it!
And change your passwords! It’s easy and fast, and it can save your bacon. If you have been at a hotel or have connected to the Internet from a coffee shop or airport, change your passwords as soon as you get home. If something funny happens or you think you may have done the wrong thing while you were web surfing, change your passwords. Use a password vault so you only have to remember one password. Then if something funny happens, you simply reset all your passwords and change the main one. And make it a good password, too. Make sure that nobody can guess your passwords or security questions just by reading your Facebook page.
Also, if you were out in public and wanted to keep what you are saying private, you could use a code couldn’t you? Then, even if you were overheard, what you said wouldn’t make any sense to anyone but you and the person you are trying to communicate with. Why not apply that to your computer, as well? Use cryptography to store your private stuff in memory and for sending private communications whenever possible. You don’t have to be any kind of computer expert. Disc encryption tools are free and easy to use, and you can buy email certificates very inexpensively. The main thing is, though, take responsibility for your own computer safety like you would anything else you own. I’ll bet you can think of plenty of other common sense ways to protect yourselves that I haven’t touched on here.
This post by John Davis.