I can’t remember the number of times I was told as a child – “be careful crossing the road”. I guess it worked or I was fortunate. I think the same concept is probably true about IT security – understand the basics, remind regularly and put into practice what works for you and what is right. Those last 2 phrases were borrowed from Hill Street Blues as was the title of this post – “Let’s be careful out there“. Here’s a simple checklist to get started:

1. Be informed and keep informed with basic IT security

It may sound like we’re suggesting you study to take an exam on the subject, but that’s not the case. We’re simply recommending that you get comfortable with ideas and concepts to keep your computer safe in the same way that you think and know about protecting your physical property whether it’s your house, car, bike or squash racquet even.

2. Backup your computer

Backing up is like an insurance policy that pays out – you’ll retrieve your data if the unexpected happens. There are basically 2 easy options for types of backup – local to another device such as an external hard drive or cloud backup. Make regular backups, ideally keeping several month’s worth and run a test to make sure that your backup works and you are able to recover your data.
You could use both methods which would be a belt and braces approach – it will provide double the security.
If you choose local backup storage then the best scenario is that you keep your backups securely away from your computer when not in use.

3. Protect your computer with software

Make sure that you have security software installed, running and set up correctly. There are many excellent anti-virus software suites available including low cost and even free internet security software suites. Remember to check that the software is set to scan regularly and also that it is updating daily with the latest virus definitions so that it knows the latest threats to test against.

4. Keep your software up-to-date

Ensure that your computer is set for automatic software and operating system updates. This is known as patching – an unpatched PC is more likely to have software security vulnerabilities and therefore have an increased vulnerability to be exploited.

5. Use the Internet and email safely

Use your inner voice as a weapon against being caught out by schemes that would intended to attack you: ignore unsolicited emails and be wary of attachments, links and forms in emails especially coming from people that you don’t know or which seem out of the blue. Social engineering in terms of IT security suggests people are the biggest computer security problem.
Here’s some useful advice about keeping safe from some good resources on the Internet:

Up next – we’re going to have an indepth look at the subject of IT Security including basic security concepts explained with real world examples. Please watch this space.
Until then, Let’s be careful out there...