Protecting Your Computer Is Not Optional
This is geared more for the home computer user. I've encountered a lot of individuals who have no protection on their home computer, or who use the free version of an anti-virus program. The free versions of most anti-virus programs are usually junk. Better than nothing, but junk nevertheless. Using an ineffective AV program will lull you into being complacent about security. You need something really good to protect yourself.
There is no question, your computer is a valuable commodity to a bad guy who can gain control of it. The "I don't do anything dangerous" excuse doesn't work. Indeed you do many things that expose you and your computer to danger, and you must take responsibility to protect yourself.
Allow me speculate about how you may use you personal computer:
- Your computer is connected to the internet, and is on for several hours a day.
- You play games, one of which is a really nifty on-line version of solitaire.
- You use your computer to record personal financial information, and pay some bills on line.
- You shop and purchase on-line, more every year. Sometimes you use Google to search for new merchants and buy from them.
- Your spouse connects to a work computer on the evenings and weekends.
- Your teenager connects to their employer to get their work schedule.
- You exchange cooking recipes on-line.
- You're on Facebook. Sometimes you click on one of the links on the right side of the Facebook window if you see a subject that's really interesting.
- You exchange email with only a couple of dozen people. A friend sends really great links to videos she finds on websites all over. You probably know almost everybody you get email from and never open any attachment that seems suspicious.
- You never install security updates because you're not really sure how to do it.
You and your computer are extremely vulnerable and offer a worthwhile target if you use it to do any one of these things. You also offer a bad guy a wide spectrum of evil things that can be done if only they can gain control of your computer. Simply by being connected to the internet, you are in danger. These people are highly motivated, have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
To get an idea of how your computer can be leveraged to do evil, look at this graphic. Click on it to read more.
© 2017 Krebs on Security
You need to take action to protect yourself
Change your email password to something stronger.
If you can't figure out how create a good password then download a free program called LastPass which will be integrated into your browser. Assign yourself a single complex password to control Lastpass, then let it do the heavy lifting of creating passwords for you. All you'll need to remember is your master password, so write it down someplace safe and don't lose it. The full version of Lastpass, without ads, costs $24 a year, but start with the free version.
For Pete's sake, please buy a decent anti-virus program!
Up-to-date, objective, independent reviews of anti-virus programs can be found here, and you must use one. Aim for a program that has the greatest number of white bullets in all three categories.
Don't forget your smartphone!
The bad guys know your phone travels with you and is constantly connected to the internet. Smart phones are ubiquitous, which makes them a rich target, and since they're really pocket computers they can be cracked. The better anti-virus companies make software to protect your phone. Get something and use it.