Digital Asset Protection: 6 Computer Security Tips

June 10, 2014

You lock up your house and car each day, so be sure to do the same with your digital assets. Here are six tips to start employing today.

Cybercrime is estimated to cause a loss of over $400 billion per year. Fortunately, the criminals prey on easy marks and predictable patterns of behavior that you can actually fix with little or no technical skill. I recently attended an anti-fraud and embezzlement seminar that included a feature on cyber security . I've summarized the high points for you below and will be sharing them with my own office, friends, and clients.

This issue is important and easy to overlook on a piece of technology we all use every day, both at home and at work. Think about the security precautions you take on daily basis in locking your home and business, setting alarms, etc.; now think about the fact that there are as many, if not more criminals online than in your neighborhood. We've previously discussed the importance of data breach aka. cyber liability insurance for your business but this threat can strike anywhere including at your home where your security is usually lower and where most families have a diverse group of people with different situational awareness using shared home computers and networks. Make this issue something you address with your staff and family as part of your summer security precautions.

Many of the basic precautions require no special skill or software, just modifying our bad or uninformed behavior.

Your Router may be a weak Link(sys).

The security expert giving the presentation mentioned that one of the most popular brands of wireless routers, Linksys, uses a short set of default passwords and user names for their routers, most of them have the user "Admin" and the password is "Password" - this is because you are supposed to change your username and password on new equipment. If you can't figure it out ask your children to do it or watch one of the many YouTube videos that will walk you through it just a few easy steps.

Your passwords, frankly, s*ck.

Don't feel bad, nearly all of us are doing this. I was shocked to learn that a seemingly unbreakable password of seven characters that looks like this: "&7Q@4_I" takes less than 90 seconds for a professional hacker to break and is damn near impossible to remember but a simple sentence like "I_HATE_COMPUTER_HACKERS" could take thousands of years, because every character you add makes it exponentially harder to break.

You may not even be using your weak passwords.

I was surprised to learn that many people still aren't using passwords to lock their phones, computers, laptops, and tablets. You must do this at both your home and medical practice. These devices have memory that could be used against you (even your eBay account) and for the medical professionals reading this, it could also create a HIPAA exposure if you get practice e-mail or have access to your EHR on any of your personal devices. If you are using one of the "password storage" programs available on many PCs and Mac computers this is even more important as the list will be in the hands of the bad guys if your device is lost or stolen.

Stop Using Windows XP.

Twenty-six percent of those affected by hackers, malware, viruses etc. are still using Windows XP. According to the expert, Windows XP is from 2001, is no longer supported or updated by Microsoft, and has many known serious security flaws. It's time to upgrade your software, and probably your whole computer, if you are still using it. Oh, and if you are thinking, "It's OK, because it's just the old one we keep for the kids," remember that they are the most vulnerable and often have the heaviest usage, especially in the summer.

Your Mac is not magic and Safari is not safe either.

Many Mac users are under the false impression that Macs can't be hacked and are less vulnerable than PCs. That's not true. The expert said the main weak link in Mac computers is actually the Safari Internet browser, which has numerous security issues and which is updated regularly. They recommend Google's Chrome and Firefox as two of the strongest options, both of which are free to download online.

Update everything.

No mater what systems and software you are using they need to be upgraded and if you don't update that pesky antivirus, operating system, or even Java and Adobe, you are not receiving the changes that address the new vulnerabilities that are created by cybercriminals every day. Don't just click "remind me later" for weeks at time.