Saturday, February 20, 2016

Protecting Your Home Computer System From Hackers and Identity Thieves


Anyone who has had his or her email address hijacked or has received a scam message via email knows how easily someone can hack into a home computer system. At the January IEEE CyberSecurity SIG general meeting in Tustin, California, Mark Wich, a senior-level systems/software engineer with more than 30 years of experience in systems and network engineering and member of the SIG, presented “Protecting Your Home Environment from Hackers and Identity Thieves.” His talk covered several areas: wi-fi, anti-viruses, operating system security, email, web surfing, cookies, and password security. Here are the highlights.

Wi-Fi
Wich advised changing the default wi-fi router SSID and passwords and adding MAC filtering, which lets specific devices only talk to your home network. Since the latter is difficult to set up, contact your provider for instructions.

Anti-virus Protection
Wich emphasized installing only one virus protection program. He suggested Avast, which is free, and that you scan weekly.

Operating System Security
Every computer should ask for a password when powered up. Change passwords every so often.

Email Do’s and Don’ts

1.   Inform your email provider of any phishing scams you receive. Keep your anti-virus program running.

2.   Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know.

3.   Don’t click on links inside emails even if you think you know where you’re going. If it appears like a legitimate link from your bank, for instance, hover your mouse over it to see who the sender is. Banks (and government institutions) do not ask for personal information via email, so if you have any doubt that it could be the bank, click out and go to the bank website via your browser or call their customer service.

Surfing 101
Don’t click on ads or any pop-ups. Just displaying them can infect your computer, so Wich advises installing ad-blocking software and webmail ad-blocking software. Make sure your browser’s pop-up blocker is enabled.

Beware of any pop-up that says your computer is infected. Don’t click on it to make it go away as that will launch the virus. Instead, unplug the computer from the wall right away.

Ransomeware is a specific type of virus. When you click on the popup to get rid of it, it immediately hijacks your computer and encrypts your data. You will have to pay a ransom to get your data back. Again, don’t click on the popup. Unplug your computer instead.

"Don’t let websites, even ones such as Paypal and Amazon, store your personal information, as you are dependent upon their level of security," says Wich.. “If you don’t give it to them, they can’t lose it. And never use your phone for online banking, as it, too, is easily hacked.”

He also warned against using cloud services because of the hacking danger.

Cookies
Cookies are bits of data that websites store on your computer. Turn off cookies in your browser.

Password Security

Wich’s most detailed suggestions concern instant password security. Here are the steps:

1.  Get a notebook.

2.  Pick a phrase to use as your password (e.g., tomato4soup).

3.  In your notebook, write three things:

a.  Site name

b.  Username

c.  Password nickname (e.g., tword)

4.   Repeat Step 3 for all your sites/
usernames/passwords, but use different versions for each one.  

 .   Here’s an example:

Citibank   - milominderbender, tword4

Yahoo – milominder2, Tword7

Gmail – milo123, Tword35

5.  Take a picture of your notebook on your phone.

These may seem like many tasks to perform, but take Wich’s suggestions one-by-one to reduce overwhelm and keep your computer safe from hackers.



 


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