Practicing Personal Cyber Security

Deborah Lee Luskin

Practicing personal cyber security is better than having your data kidnapped or stolen.

If the US elections can be hacked, so can your data. Are you protected?

I took my concerns and my computer to Steve West at Fearless Computing to see what I could do to keep my data safe.

MAC v. PC

“You’re already using a Mac,” Steve said, “which puts you way ahead of the curve.” This makes me feel a little better about spending significantly more for a MacBookPro than a run-on-the-mill PC. But truth be told, my first computer was a Mac. I bought it in 1984, before the internet was a way of life.

Well that’s changed, and so have the cyber threats that come along with connectivity.

RANSOMWARE

According to Steve, ransomware is probably a bigger threat than malware. Ransomware is malicious software that blocks access to computer data until a sum of money (usually in untraceable bitcoin) is paid. But if you’ve backed up your computer securely, what the kidnappers took is worthless, because you still have your data in another location.

Even back in the days of floppy discs I was meticulous about backing up my data. I kept three discs and backed up to a different one each day, so I always had the last three versions of my work. With Time Machine, I just have an external hard drive, which Steve says is not enough. He recommends I also back up remotely, to the cloud, and that’s on my “to do” list for this week.

back up, back up, back up!

Since I have more data than most freeware will cover, I’m going to spend $5/month on Carbonite, which buys me a year’s unlimited storage for one computer. I was initially skeptical of cloud storage, but Steve convinced me that since security is what Carbonite sells, they have a vested interested in protecting my data and their reputation.

firewalls & vaccines

I also spend $30/year on NetBarrier and VirusBarrier by Intego. There’s freeware you can download to keep a firewall between you and cyber infections, but you have to remember to run it. Mine is on all the time my computer is on, and am I ever glad it is. I’m currently judging a statewide writing contest, and one of the submissions launched malware when I opened it up. VirusBarrier blocked it. Whew!

Protecting financial data

Of course, it’s not just my work on my computer anymore; it’s also my business and my household accounts. In this modern age, I do most of my banking and bill-paying on-line, and a certain amount of shopping, as well. Without getting too fancy, there are a few safeguards that help protect your financials.

  1. First, use a password protected wireless area network. Better yet, connect via Ethernet.
  2. Next, when signing in to a financial institution or shopping site, look for the “s” in “https,” which stands for “secure.”
  3. Finally, use strong passwords that include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t use the same password, and change them from time to time. And really: don’t stick passwords to your computer with post-it notes!
passwords

To limit the number of passwords I have, I make on-line purchases without logging in or creating an account. When that’s not an option, I use 1Password. This is yet another security program; this one’s designed to keep track of my passwords – and it does. All I have to remember is the password that unlocks it; the program does the rest. I chose 1Password on my brother’s recommendation and after a thirty-day free trial. It costs about $36/year.

disclaimer

There are other programs out there, including free ones. These recommendations are what I use. I don’t work for any of these companies, and I have nothing to gain if you use their products. So ask around. Do some research. Find the security programs that work for your budget and your needs. And then stay safe: practice good cyber security.

What do you do to protect your data?

One of the most life-affirming things I've done in 2016 is hike Vermont's 272-mile Long Trail.

At the Canadian border on 9/8/16 after hiking Vermont’s 272-mile Long Trail from Massachusetts to Canada.

Deborah Lee Luskin posts an essay every Wednesday at www.deborahleeluskin.com

17 thoughts on “Practicing Personal Cyber Security

  1. Pingback: Practicing Personal Cyber Security – pipayfreemind

  2. Pingback: Product Reviews and Lifestyle Enrichment

  3. I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s equally educative
    and interesting, and let me tell you, you have hit
    the nail on the head. The issue is something which not enough
    men and women are speaking intelligently about. I’m
    very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for
    something regarding this.

  4. Great advice. I currently do most of these things. I started using Kaspersky several years ago. I’m not sure if it is still rated as high as it was when I started. I also subscribe to the Geek Squad and I have them check my system once a month. It amazes me what they find in Malware and other hidden stuff.

    • Thanks for affirming my call for practicing cyber security! I just looked up Kaspersky, which gets 5 stars from CNET – high praise! Is the Geek Squad service through Best Buy? ~Thanks for the tips.

  5. I am a big fan of external & cloud back ups myself, currently do both. Also, regarding passwords, I often tell others to use short phrases (3-5 word sentences) rather than one word with #’s. however, that’s just me. One Password as you spoke of is excellent as it can store all you passwords leaving you to only remember one. I also sometimes check the security certificates on the websites I visit even if it does have an “s” on it. Anyway, good read. Thank you.

  6. Pingback: Cyber Security – Site Title

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s