Computer Security

Well, here I am trying to catch up with my school work after a fun-filled Spring Break of sleeping in, celebrating birthdays, and hijinx at work.  So to all of my fan (hi mom), I apologize for the brief hiatus in my blog.

Today’s topic is computer security.  Here is a list of basic security measures recommended by George Mason University’s IT department:

  • Activate a Password Protected Screensaver
  • Use Strong Passwords for All of Your Accounts
  • Automatically Receive Critical Updates
  • Use Antivirus Software and Verify Proper Configuration
  • Back Up Files As Needed
  • Never Open Suspicious E-mails or Attachments
  • Use SSL or https for Online Transactions
  • Reformat Hard Drive if Owner Changes
  • Use Secure Shell, https, VPN, or Other Encrypted Client Portals for Transferring Files
  • Follow Best E-mail Practices
  • Browse Safely

Some of these are common sense for most of us, however there is a growing target of e-attacks against senior citizens.  While most people may not open a “suspicious e-mail or attachment”, seniors have a tendency toward trusting internet sources.  My 68 year old father lost $2500 in such an attack.  How did they get him?  They hacked his cousin’s account and sent my dad a message that appeared to be coming from his own cousin asking for money.

Another form of internet safety above that I’d like to touch on is to “use strong passwords for all of your accounts”.  This is a great practice, but also extremely annoying.  Depending on what you are trying to access, the requirements for passwords is different.  Some sites require two or more “special characters” (such as @, !, or $), a mix of capital and lower-case letters, and one or more numbers.  Other sites don’t allow special characters.  The trouble here is that while Internet security becomes more standard, it becomes near impossible to keep track of what password you use where.

How do you protect yourself?  First of all, your computer and/or devices should have password protection.  This is good for loss or theft of your device, as well as keeping teenagers and young student humans off of your computer.  (This is experience talking).  Other safety strategies are to use visual aids in your passwords, such as a ‘site-key’ required when logging onto online banking.  If you don’t recognize your site-key, then you are most likely logging into a fraudulent website.  You can also set up your device to require security questions, for example you cannot log in until you type the name of your high school boyfriend’s step mothers best friend’s maiden name.  You get the point.

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