By Jennifer Ouderkirk
Trivalent Group, Inc.
Your computer password is your best defense against damaging intrusions. Without a well-chosen password or set of passwords, any other security measures protecting your data are greatly weakened. Never share your passwords with anyone. The most frequent password mistakes made include choosing an obvious password or writing down the password near your computer.
You can avoid creating an insecure password by making sure it meets these requirements:
When it comes to physical password security, never record your password anywhere close to the computer (on post-its, pull-out trays in desks, inside drawers, under shelves, etc.). You can use a password-protected database or password keeper tool so that you can look up passwords.
Even the most secure password can be compromised if you step away from your computer while logged in. Make sure that you always limit incidental access to your machine by logging off your computer when you leave the room and by locking your office or room. You can also use a screen saver password to lock your computer so that only you can unlock it.
You should never forget that your computer equipment is also a target for thieves. Remember to physically secure your laptop and any other easily portable device when not at your desk.
Outside of a good password, constant antivirus protection is one of the most critical components of a secure computer system. Viruses can easily cause your system data to be compromised, and their destructive influence is devastating. A managed antivirus tool that provides automatic updates and scanning is the most effective.
Do not ever deactivate or uninstall your antivirus software because you think it slows your computer down or clutters your system. Although antivirus software may in fact slow down your computer a negligible amount, it rarely affects the overall performance of your system, and the protection it provides is immeasurable.
A firewall is a barrier between your computer and the Internet through which only certain kinds of information can pass. Your computer network should have a firewall in place to protect it.
In order to protect your own personal privacy, we can’t stress enough that you remain vigilant and protective of your passwords and other personal information. Many individuals assume that hackers will never go after them and their information. However, it is crucial to understand that hackers simply look for computers that are easy to crack and can be used for the hacker’s own purposes. By simply having a good password, you severely reduce the risk of getting hacked. Given the choice, hackers will attempt to break into the system that is easiest to exploit. Having a strong password is a good way to help prevent that.
In addition, never give out your credit card numbers, Social Security number, or any other personal information on an unfamiliar site or a site that isn’t secured by SSL encryption. Look for the lock icon in your web browser to make sure.
Programs on websites can also potentially compromise your computer, so you should completely trust such a program before allowing it to run.
Never open attachments sent by a stranger. In general, it’s a safer bet never to open any attachment if it’s only “funny” or entertaining. These kinds of attachments frequently double as a Trojan horse or ransomware which can be very destructive. Even if you recognize the sender, if it is not an attachment you were expecting, make sure it’s valid before you open it. If you get a link to log in to a web page, instead of clicking on the link, go to the web page and open/log in there (e.g., LinkedIn invitations).
It is also a good idea to create a separate, web-based free email account to receive junk mail and other unnecessary email. Never respond to unsolicited email because doing so may confirm your existence to a spam-mail provider. A spam filter can help with blocking junk mail and senders and determine the true sender.
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