The Four Leaf Clover of Security Success
Today is St. Patrick’s Day, an originally Irish Catholic feast day now celebrated nearly worldwide by wearing green, eating corned beef and cabbage, and throwing parades dedicated to showcasing their participants’ Irish heritage. One of the famous stories associated with St. Patrick is that in the early 5th Century, he banished all the snakes from Ireland after a 40 day fast atop a hill. Fast forward 1500 years later, there are still no snakes in Ireland, but there are still problematic pests people are struggling to keep out. These days, people want to banish malware, viruses, and hackers from their computers. And while DCD can’t promise a miracle that will keep your hardware infection free for centuries, we can offer these four easy security tips!
You don’t need luck to keep your data safe!
1. Backup Your Data
Sometimes, protecting yourself doesn’t just mean creating a defense against threats; sometimes, it also means having a reliable safety net for when things do go wrong. Making a backup of your data is that safety net. This is especially important for businesses with documents full of critical information such as client accounts, contacts, invoices, and other important documents. Recovering lost data is an expensive, and often exhaustive, task, and it’s not always guaranteed to work 100%.
There are a number of ways to backup your computer. The three most common places to store backups are:
- External hardware, such as a CD or thumbdrive
- Online cloud storage, like through Google or Dropbox
- A third-party backup service, such as SOS Online Backup or Barracuda.com
Backups done on a CD or thumbdrive are good for individuals looking to store small amounts of data, however, they run the risk of getting lost, damaged, or stolen. Online cloud storage is good for larger amounts of data, and a small company might be able to take advantage of the free storage space. However, the amount of data is still relatively limited and everything must be uploaded manually, making it a time consuming process. Dedicated backup services charge a fee, but uploads are 100% automated and much more secure than standard cloud storage, making them ideal for businesses with very sensitive information.
Hackers may not be the most common cause of data loss, but losing your data can be devestating no matter what. Image courtesy of zartigroup.com
2. CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS
We cannot stress this point enough. One of your best defenses against hacking attempts is to regularly change and diversify your passwords. You see, many hackers expect the average computer user to use the same password across multiple accounts. It’s easy to see why, when we have different accounts across so many websites, keeping track of them all is difficult to do, so it seems efficient to have just one strong password that’s used multiple times. Unfortunately, not all websites are as well encrypted as others, and once a hacker has gotten a hold of your password from one site, suddenly they have access to all the others. The best thing you can do to prevent this is to use a unique password for all your online accounts – or at the very least, the most sensitive ones like email, social media, work, and bank accounts.
The biggest issue with this is, how do you possibly keep track of them all? It’s common sense to not to write them down – that’s the easiest way for passwords to be stolen, after all. How To Geek suggests using a password manager: specifically a dedicated password manager like KeePass or Dashlane and not just the ones that come as part of a web browser.
3. Lock Your Data
Logging out of your computer every time you leave your computer is another common sense tip that’s easy to forget. Hackers don’t just exist in cyberspace, unfortunately sometimes, they exist in everyday life too. While it’s natural to want to trust your co-workers, leaving your computer or mobile device unlocked and unattended is an open invitation for someone to come snooping. This is especially important when working in a public space, such as a cafe or co-working space.
This is also important for physical documents containing sensitive or important information as well. When not in use, important documents should be kept in a locked storage container and not left lying around. When these documents are no longer necessary, they should be shredded as soon as possible.
4. Use a Smart Adblocker
These ads aren’t just annoying, each one of them puts your computer at risk too! Image courtesy of pctools.com
Adblockers are one of the more controversial forms of computer security, especially since many websites rely on ad-based revenue to support themselves. Many companies complain that they’re losing revenue due to adblockers and compare it to piracy. YouTube in particular has been heavily impacted by adblockers, although it’s theorized that their very visible, interruptive ads are part of the reason for their rise in use.
But if these adblockers are hurting online companies, why are we recommending them as a security tool? As it turns out, online ads are actually one of the easiest ways for hackers to distribute malware. According to MalwareBytes.org, browser hijackers are one of the most common forms of malware on the internet, and they work by serving you advertisements that have been infected while you’re browsing websites, most often in the form of pop-ups.
Because ads are such a pervasive part of the internet, most people wouldn’t think twice about them, simply assuming they’re a normal part of the website they’re browsing. The worst part about about it is that many ad servers know this, and don’t actually do a thing about it. Just this January, Forbes.com urged users to turn off their adblockers, only to immediately serve them an infected pop-under ad. The irony of the situation isn’t hard to miss. Luckily, most adblockers come with the option to enable ads on trusted websites, and you should be using this. Even better, Adblock Plus, the most popular adblocker on the internet, already comes with an extensive whitelist already built in, allowing acceptable ads from trusted advertising companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.
As you can see, these simple tips are much more effective than taping a four leaf clover to your computer tower and hoping for the luck of the Irish. By being proactive and taking steps to prevent unwanted pests from sneaking into your data, you can go out and enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day knowing your company’s hardware is safe.