With attacks on the rise, cyber security experts have their hands full trying to keep up protection for business and home networks. Because users keep everything from tax information to brokerage statements on their home PCs, it is important for people to be aware of potential threats, install a reliable antivirus program, and to run anti-spyware software on a regular basis to clear their machines of malware. The widespread havoc wrought by Heartbleed earlier this year has every CEO turning to their IT staff and asking, “Are we secure?” People need to ask the same question about their personal computers.
Here are four steps anyone can take to improve the security of their home network:
Step 1: Beef up security on home computers.
Install and keep current antivirus and anti-spyware software. If money is an issue, there are 10 highly rated free antivirus software programs. Some antivirus programs will protect from malware and some will not. A great practice is to run a product like SuperAntiSpyware in addition to an antivirus solution.
Step 2: Secure access to the network.
All home networks should, at the very least, be encrypted with a strong password. Public networks invite people to hop on and share the bandwidth, putting sensitive files at risk and slowing down the network. Not only should WiFi passwords be complex, they should be changed at least every 90 days. To check whether a password is secure enough, go to a site like HowSecureIsMyPassword.net.
The CEO of TechSurgeons, an information technology security and consulting company based in Phoenix, has this advice: “Implement a sane password policy. Choosing a password that cannot be remembered is a recipe for passwords being saved on an insecure Post-it note. Pass phrases are fantastic. Use a line from a song or favorite novel with proper punctuation. It will be much easier to remember, and more difficult to hack.”
With many routers, the easiest way to keep home networks secure is to create an Access List, adding specific computer information, such as MAC addresses. If a computer is not on the list, it will not be allowed on the network. Period.
Step 3: Understand how to protect your data.
Good cyber security habits are vital for home network protection; here are a few tips to keep data secure. Encrypt all flash drives. Be sure to back up every computer regularly. Use a program like Carbonite that backs files up to the Cloud automatically, or save files in an easily accessible remote location such as Microsoft’s OneDrive or DropBox. The advantage to this method is the files are available from any location with an internet connection.
Create a login and password for each user. Passwords should not be written down on paper. If they must be recorded, be sure to encrypt the file or keep the written copy in an at-home safe. Many people prefer to use a password managing software like LastPass.
Step 4: Keep computers and software up to date.
Make sure automatic software updating is turned on so the computer’s software is always up to date. Most people don’t remember to back up their files or run their software updates until there is a problem; most often this is too late to do much good.
Windows XP is a good example of why is it a good practice to upgrade to later versions of a computer’s operating system. Microsoft finally ended support for the OS after 12 years, an incredible length of time for one version.
As Microsoft explains: “Old operating systems like XP become five times more vulnerable to viruses and security risks. Also, companies that make devices like printers, digital cameras, and Internet-ready TVs won’t provide drivers that work with Windows XP, so if you get new devices, they won’t work with your current PC.”
The four steps detailed here will go a long way toward keeping home computers secure. Beef up cyber security on home computers by installing reliable antivirus and anti-spyware software. Secure access to home networks. Protect data with regular backups and good password habits. And finally, keep computers and software as up-to-date as possible.
No one knows where or when the next attack will be, but following these tips and staying vigilant will increase cyber security protection at home and at work. Update regularly to keep up with the latest advances in malware, and never think “it won’t happen to you.”
By Jenny Hansen