Hints and tips to stay safe in 2019
With 2018 out of the way, and a lot of people starting diets, exercise, eating healthy and other new years resolutions why not make 2019 the year of security!
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you stay safe in 2019:-
1) Support scams
If you receive a phone call pertaining to be from “Microsoft”, “BT”, “Your Internet provider” etc... - It’s 99.99% likely to be a scam. They will want you to visit a website and click on a link to install some remote-control software so they can infiltrate your system and install malicious software.
You may ask “Why would anyone want to access my computer, I’ve nothing important in it?” – Well, that may be the case, but they don’t know that, you could have family photos that are precious to you that you couldn’t get again. Or they could install software onto your computer to send out viruses to other computers on the internet or to send out emails, all without your knowledge.
So, the easiest way to get rid of them is to tell them you don’t have a computer. They will probably remove you from their calling list.
2) Think before clicking on links in emails and on social media.
Never, ever and I mean EVER!!! Click on a link in an email or social media without considering the fact that it COULD be a scam. Clicking on links that you are unsure off could infect your computer with who knows what, virus, malicious software, ransom-ware… Is it really worth it?
If someone sends you a link on social media (Facebook for example) ask them first if they sent it and what is it… don’t just click on it, it’s most likely ok, but better to be safe than sorry.
If you receive an email with an attachment from someone like Amazon (other online stores are available too) stating your order for £325 will be delivered on Tuesday and click here to download the invoice etc… don’t click on it, don’t open the attachment, bin it! Unless of course you have actually ordered something for £325 :) and you are expecting it :)
By clicking on an unsolicited attachment and opening a file, you could, and probably will be infecting your computer with something; and that something could damage all of your photos, documents and videos… don’t do it.
3) Protect your passwords.
I’m sure we are all guilty of this one… Using the same password multiple times for different things. DON’T. With the amount of website security breaches, it really is asking for trouble using the same passwords for different online accounts.
One of the best ways to look after multiple passwords is by using a “password manager”; software that will securely hold your passwords so you don’t need to remember them. They will also allow you to generate passwords with random letters and numbers.
If you are not confident in operating software to manage your passwords or just don’t have that many things that need passwords then an alternative would be to write them down in a book, but and it’s a big but… write them down in shorthand. So, if I had a password “albany123” write it down in your book as “a1”, or if you had your pets name as your password “bertie999” the write down “b9”. Writing down a shorthand version of your password will help you remember it.
I strongly suggest not using words that are in the dictionary though, and certainly not your date of birth.
Passwords should be a mixture of uppercase and lower-case characters with numbers and special characters if they are allowed, for example, something similar to “6o#5@IV9W$moz”.
If you use a spreadsheet program it’s reasonably easy to generate a random password, but random passwords are harder to remember without using a password manager or you should save your passwords in an encrypted document, see below.
4) Social media lockdown.
Lock down your social media accounts and don’t give too much away.
There are a lot of options for securing your Facebook account, for example, change your settings so that only you can see who is on your Friends list. Always make sure your Facebook posts are too “Friends” and never post personal details as “Public”.
In Facebook on a computer click the question mark symbol at the top right of the screen and select 2Account security” to learn more about securing your Facebook account.
5) Protect your computer with good anti-virus software
You should always use some form of anti-virus software on your computer. Depending on your surfing habits will depend on how far you need to push the boat out. Sometimes Windows 10’s Defender will be more than adequate, it’s certainly in the top 10 for free security software. For people that are doing a lot of surfing and searching, I would recommend a paid for anti-virus solution.
The market leaders in the anti-virus arena are not always the best. We have been using BullGuard anti-virus for over 10 years and have found it to be a very good solution. The RRP is £49.95 but we are reselling BullGuard for £29.00.
6) Keep your devices updated
Vulnerabilities in software are being discovered all the time. Software vendors are always bringing out software updates so it’s always a good idea to update your software including Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac’s operating systems as the updates become available. I know, it’s a pain in the proverbial to restart your computer and wait for the updates and sometimes they can take hours… but it’s a necessary evil.
Vulnerabilities in software are like leaving your windows open when going on holiday, is it worth it?
7) Uninstall/remove unused apps and software
If you have installed some software or an app and found it lacking or you’ve found some new software that performs a lot better or has enhanced features, it’s always a good idea to remove the old junk; this applies to smartphones as well as computers.
By keeping unused software on your system you are potentially leaving your system open to vulnerabilities, see section 6 above, Keep your devices updated.
8) backup your important data.
Electronics devices fail, software errors can corrupt or delete your files, hey, even you can delete a file by mistake, so always back up your important information.
You should always have at least two copies of important files, three or more is better, but two as an absolute minimum. For example, if you copy photos from your phone or camera to your computer, DON’T delete them from your phone/camera until you have taken a backup of the files on your computer. That way if your computer goes belly up, you will still have the photos on your phone/camera (two copies).
How often you should back up your files depends on how frequently you modify or add to your files, how important your files are and how easily it would be to recreate the lost information. I would think that your latest holiday photos are very important and can’t easily be recreated so it would be prudent to back up your photos every time you add to or modify them.
If you run a business certain documents may be easily recreated from paperwork so if you lose a dozen invoices it may only take you half an hour to recreate them so backing up after everyone is created would be a waste of time and once a day or even once a week may be sufficient.
Data backup is literally a science, you can make it very complicated, or you could make it very easy, it really is down to cost and how important your information is.
We use a mixture of solutions from automatically sending files to the “Cloud” every 20 minutes to back up to an external hard drive every week. Some files we don’t bother taking a backup off because we can easily get the information again from other sources.
If you would like some help and advice on data backup just give us a call.
9) Encrypt your important information.
There are certain types of information that if got into the wrong hands could be anything from inconvenient to downright disastrous.
For example, if you won the lottery and didn’t want to tell anyone (as if you would) you may want to encrypt your bank statements so whoever has access to your computer can’t see them and know how much money you have stashed away :)
If you are a business, then certain types of information MUST be encrypted.
As with all things computer related, there is a multitude of solutions. One solution could be to save your information in your password manager, see section “3) Protect your passwords” above.
There is software that can create encrypted storage lockers where you can store your sensitive files. These storage lockers need to be opened in order to access the information inside, a bit like locking your filing cabinet. The only downside is that if you lose your key or password you will lose access to the information inside and there is very little chance of opening it.
You could also save your password list inside your encrypted storage locker.
We use some free software called VeraCrypt which is easy to use once your storage locker has been created but can be a little difficult and not very intuitive to set up.
If you need any help or advice for any of the topics I’ve mentioned or anything computer related please don’t hesitate to get in touch, if we can help, we will.