Computer Security for Laymen(and Women)

I was driving around tonight, with lots of liquor in my car listening to the radio… What I heard was a guy complaining about his facebook getting hacked. A lot. That bothered me, and as such prompted me to do a short(ish) writeup about internet/computer security, for people who have no idea how a computer works (most of us)…

For starters, if you’ve noticed your e-mail or facebook sending out messages without you, and lots of angry friends bitching about spam, it’s time to get a bit more serious about your security… We live on our computers now and if you can’t protect your digital life, you’re going to regret it.

Good news and bad news. Bad News first: you cannot make your digital life 100% secure, because dedicated people (asshats) will find a way. Even if you disconnect from the internet. Good news is that most of us don’t warrant this kind of attention and most spam attacks and mundane things happen because people aren’t smart or careful. With a few simple steps, you can secure your digital life in such a way that most things won’t bother you.

For starters, let’s make sure your PC isn’t infected, or if it is, it’s cleaned. My advice, if you’re running Windows, go and download Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s free, doesn’t slow down your computer, and will clean off a lot of crap. It ignores spyware, those annoying cookies that track your online info, but it will clean off keyloggers (programs which track your keystrokes and steal your passwords), trojans (viruses masquerading as legit programs) and worms (self-replicating resource hogs). If you want to clean spyware too, google SuperANTISpyware. It works.

Now that your computer is clean, let’s start being smart… Common sense. CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS!!! Got it?

Allow me to elaborate.

When you make a simple password, be it short, something important to you, or based off a dictionary word, can be cracked easily. My advice is use stupidly long passwords, because most people can’t guess them and it takes PCs a long time to break them, just make sure you remember them. If you DON’T go the obnoxiously-long route, try alt-codes, special characters, underscores… Anything not normal. Because it takes more time to guess. ALSO if possible, DO NOT USE THE SAME PASSWORD TWICE. Don’t use the same phrase for different accounts unless you can’t help yourself. 

I don’t expect anyone to completely change their habbits of how they use their computers after reading this. But a little common-sense and know-how goes a long way. If you want to know more, feel free to leave comments or e-mail me. 

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