5 key things you should know about computer security

Computer security does not come easily.  It requires awareness of the ways in which computers and data are compromised.  To guard against loss, there are 5 key things you should know.

1.   Anti-virus programs are essential, but they’re not enough.

Anti-virus programs will not keep you safe from all attacks.   They are good for blocking older, known viruses, but they’re only as good for that if you keep them up to date.  Since there are always new viruses out there, the time between the virus discovery and an updated version of the virus library is a vulnerable period.

To maximize the effectiveness of your anti-virus program, update it every day.

2.   Vulnerability to malware is PRIMARILY a human-knowledge problem

Many scams are perpetrated by email “phishing” attacks.  These attacks work because the emails look to be legitimate, such as from your bank or a known vendor, complete with logo.

Even worse, it isn’t too hard for attackers to learn about your company by researching public information, and then targeting specific individuals in your company with “spear-phishing” emails.  These emails sound even more convincing because the person’s role is known and maybe even the person’s boss’ name.

There is no substitute for caution: Never click on a link in an email without first examining the detail of where it is going to take you.  You can do this in most browsers by hovering the cursor over the link.  When in doubt, don’t click!

3.   Passwords are often inadequate

When we log in to online services, we depend on passwords to identify and protect ourselves.  But we don’t want to bother with passwords that are long and un-memorable, so our logins are vulnerable to guessing.  In addition, we often use the same password over and over, so once one service is compromised, others can soon follow.

To protect yourself, use a password-generating program to make passwords long and un-guessable.  You can buy a program (such as “1Password”) and use it to keep a secure list of passwords on your computer.  Then you don’t need to remember your passwords and in addition you’ll have a central repository for all of them.  And you won’t use the same one over and over.

4.   Data loss is often caused by human action

There are lots of ways to lose data, and only some of them are caused by hardware failures.  For example, you may mistakenly delete a file, or you may modify data in a file without having a backup.  Also, you may delete your backup files.  Pay attention to what you’re doing when you’re moving or deleting files.  Make extra backups before doing a lot of file operations.

Then of course, you may not have any backups at all, because you haven’t set up an automatic process.  This is unwise.  Always set up an automatic mechanism that will back up your files.

5. Nothing can stop an insider who wants to cause damage

Pay attention to disgruntled employees & visitors.  Be aware of which computers are accessible to anyone who comes to your desk (or other desks).  Set up automatic “log-out” mechanisms, so that if you leave your computer, it will require a password to log back in.  And, of course, know who your visitors are.

Security depends a lot on what you know, what you do, and your willingness to invest the time and money to have the right tools.  Don’t blame insecurity on the malware.  Fix the tools and procedures in your own shop.


John will be on a panel Startup Candy: How to Be the Startup Everyone Wants to Work For on March 27 at 6:00 PM in San Francisco.  For a free ticket, visit Founders Space and enter “Levy” as your promotional code.  See you there!

The fastest way to kill your startup is with B players.  How can you attract–and hold onto–hot talent? Get ideas, real-life stories and advice on increasing your odds of funding, innovation, and success when you add smart, creative people to your team.  Our panel will discuss:

  • Why your team matters to investors
  • How to create a killer team
  • How to showcase your team to investors, partners and customers
  • How to identify and reach out to talented individuals
  • How to keep your team engaged
  • How to keep your talent from jumping ship for better opportunities
  • How to position your company as a hot career opportunity

Presenters: Josh Breinlinger of Sigma West Venture Capital; Max Shapiro of PeopleConnect; and John Levy of John Levy Consulting.

Be Sociable, Share!
About John Levy

John Levy, Ph.D. is an expert in computers, software and storage who is available for consulting in patent litigation.

For more information, email him at johnlevyexpert.com, or call 415 269-4096.
And check out John's profile on LinkedIn!