Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Computer Protection

Your computer is a gateway to a vast amount of your personal information. It contain Web site you have visited, passwords (possibly saved by your browser), financial information and thanks to the boom in digital photography, many of your photographs. Just like all your personal belonging that you secure when you lock your doors when you leave your house, you should take some effort to secure your computer and its contents.

The good news is that you do not have to be a computer expert to secure your computer. There are some basic things that everyone can do, and should do, to put there mind at ease with regards to the way they manage the information stored on their computer. I think of computer security as protecting and insurance. Insurance is a bet that we take and hope to lose but you must ask yourself - "what data would I lose if disaster struck?" - fire, flood, theft, failure.

Here is a list of some security measure you can take:
  1. Firewall - this is software that essentially makes your computer invisible to the uninvited. You probably have a firewall installed if you have a router either supplied by your ISP or of you purchased one to provide Internet services to two or more computers. If you are unsure if your router contains a firewall, contact your ISP or the router manufacturer.
  2. Secure your wireless network - The only good thing to come out of Google's collection of unsecured wireless network data is that it brought this issue to the forefront. You may thing you are doing the neighbourhood a service by providing free Internet to your neighbourer and passer-bys but they are individuals who literally drive up and down street looking for unsecured wireless network for illegal purposes. For example, using your wireless network, they can download copyrighted materials and you would be responsible. Your wireless network is also a way into your computer. They can follow the signal back to your computer and access files. The technique to secure your wireless is different and dependent on the manufacturer of your router. Call their technique support line and they should help you. One more thing - the password required is 10 characters long, consisting of the characters 0-9 and A-E. Do not use your phone number for the password! That is way too easy to figure out. If your router was installed by the ISP installer, that is what they usually set it at - be sure to use something else.

  3. Backup - Besides the fan, the only moving part in your computer is the hard disk platters. The average life of a hard drive is said to be between 15 minutes and 15 years. If you experience a hard drive failure, the results can be devastating (I know - I've a hard drive failure). Not only are all your pictures gone, but so are all your programs and all the files you have created using those programs. Your should think about and put into place a backup strategy. How often you back up your data is dependent on how you use your computer. Think about it this way - How much information would you lose between monthly backups? Too much - How about weekly? The first back up will be the longest because you need to back up everything on your hard drive. Subsequent backups take less time because your only need to back up the stuff that was added since your last back up. I would suggest you purchase a backup program to manage the process. Windows 7 comes with back up software and there are many free one you can get. They can be set to automatically backup specified folders at specified times.
  4. Virus protection - There are nasty people in this world would you love to screw you up. Some viruses are designed to infiltrate and steal information but there are others that simply want to wipe the contents of your hard drive clean. Firewalls offer some protection but usually these bugs get into our system through files that we get over email or through friends on infected memory sticks. Although you can buy Norton's Antivirus or Mcafee's, there are some you can get for free like avast! and AVG  As new viruses come to the forefront, the developers of these program make the virus definition files available for download. These virus protection programs are effective but you must download the new virus definition files as they become available. There is usually a setting on these programs to have this operation done automatically but make sure that it is set correctly. 
There are more things you can do but the above list is a great start. If you are not sure of how to implement any of the above, your local computer retailer or your computer hardware manufacturer would be happy to help. If you implement just one, it would go a long way to protect your personal information. If not - how much data are you prepared to lose??

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