How to SAFELY use your computer

(updated 03/22/2005)

This explains some 'best practices' to minimize your exposure to rotten apples.
  1. Backup, backup, backup.
    Yeah, I know, it is like the dentist always telling you to floss...

  2. Stay away from Free Stuff.
    Why do you think it is free? Maybe because something else is attached to it? This is, by far, the MOST ignored rule, which makes it the MOST used by thieves... "Free Stuff" means online music, games, interesting stuff one would download... but I would stay away from "free" spyware tools and virus tools that have not been recommended (there are some that actually install spyware under the premise that it removes spyware). Other commons forms of malware are customized toolbars, advanced search utilities, online raffles and e-cards.

  3. Stay away from Online Games.
    Although many online gaming sites may be legitimate, this is a popular ruse to allow people to download "stuff" to your computer without you knowing it. This is the SECOND MOST ignored rule...

  4. Only stay connected to the internet when necessary.
    Leaving an idle computer hooked into a high-speed connection only invites trouble.

  5. Do not let your kids use the internet unattended.
    I do not let them use it at all. I've gotten them a subscription to Encyclopedia's on CD/DVD. Try to envision the computer more like a table saw than a swingset -- that's how hackers view it.

  6. Avoid Instant Messaging.
    Call the person on the phone or go out with them to lunch. Everything you type in an IM box is sent for the world to see.
      (My Pet Peeve: It's amazing how cellphones and instant messaging are supposed to make us more sociable people; instead it actually creates a personal barrier around us in social settings -- because although we are physically in one location, our personality is somewhere else. Also, don't think that because you have this great cellphone with the "talkie" option, that your conversation is private...)

  7. Take the proper vitamins.
    Always keep your PC in good health with the checklist of software below. And, just like vitamins, too much can be just as bad as too little.

  8. Shop online carefully.
    Always go to your online shopping sites by typing in the name on the Web Browser Address Bar. And then double-check your typing. Did you know that AT&T once had 1-800-OPERATOR as it's collect call service, but MCI made a bundle by registering all the misspellings of OPERATOR? The same goes with web sites.

  9. Be suspicious of all email.
    Most email from banks, online auction sites, and stores are usually phishing attempts, trying to get you to click to a "look-alike" site to enter your password or other personal information. Even email from people you know can have mislabeled links.

  10. Always check your credit card statements.
    The way most credit card thieves work is they test many small charges to your credit card, and if it still is not cancelled after 3 -6 months, they go for the kill (a huge purchase).

  11. Be careful of what financial information you put on your PC.
    If you are a slave to Quicken or other software based financial bookkeeping, then you should store your personal data in an encrypted disk, using software like PGP.

  12. Always get yourself (and your family) a checkup.
    Financially, that is. spend the money, get the credit reports quarterly, prevent years of frustration later. The legal system is way too far behind to support you if your identity gets stolen. Oh, and get credit reports for your children too. Don't wait until they are 18 and find out then that someone has been using their SSN for years.