Holiday Hackers are Hard at Work: Ways to Protect Yourself On National Computer Security Day

By Patrick Tiettmeyer

The holidays are a time where memories are made with family and friends. It’s a time when we surf the internet to see photos of children with Santa, dogs wearing antlers, and recipes for eggnog. It’s a time when people take to e-commerce websites to shop, using their credit cards and bank accounts, trusting the sites to be secure.

And for the most part, they are: Companies worldwide focus millions of dollars and thousands of hours, annually, on their security and yet they still face threats and breaches. There are some issues we simply cannot control. What we can control is the safety of our own personal computers. 

Today is National Computer Security Day and here are a few simple tips and tricks to help you make your home computer and network a little more secure. Even if you’re not technical, most of these can be done utilizing step-by-step wizards. Take a look and make sure you are implementing these in your household…

  • All computer updates are installed
  • Antivirus software enabled
  • Firewalls enabled
  • Strong passwords are used and changed consistently
  • Use only secure wireless networks at home and while out-and-about
  • Regular data backups
  • Log-off when not using your computer

There are other ways of avoiding security intrusions on your computer and many of these come in the forms of avoiding phishing scams. We’ve all seen them, they’re emails from companies like PayPal, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, asking us to verify our information. Here are some ways to detect a phishing attempt:

  • The email has improper spelling or grammar. You may have to read a little closely but if the grammar is off or there’s a typo, be suspicious, be very suspicious. Sometimes the address will look legitimate by using the company title before the @symbol. Unless you can verify the address, DO NOT OPEN.
  • The hyperlinked URL is different from the one shown. When you’re sent an email from a company asking you to verify account, they usually always provide a link to click. Never click the link. Instead, right click on it to view the address. Read this address carefully, good phishers know to make it a similar URL to the genuine site but typos, misspellings and random strings of characters are telltale signs it’s not genuine.
  • The email urges you to take immediate action. Phishers want to scare you into submitting your information via a phony log-in page. The best approach – if you’re taken directly to what appears to be a log-in page, close it. Instead enter the real website (Paypal, Amazaon, etc) into the address bar manually, log in to, and check your account status.
  • The email requests for personal information. Reputable companies don’t need to ask you for personal information. If you have an account with them, they already have everything they need and will never ask you to verify personal information via email. Again, log in to the corresponding real site to check your account status.
  • The email includes suspicious attachments. Unless you requested a document or are expecting one, never download an attachment from an email until you investigate. It’s a good rule of thumb in general but especially around the holidays.

Taking some simple steps to secure your PC can help avoid months of headache and heartache as can taking the time to think before you click. We may not be able to control the hackers of the world but we can take steps to protect ourselves. Security begins at home. Happy World Security Day!

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