To those that are looking for that one security application that will provide total protection, I hate to burst your bubble—there isn’t any.
Security apps are important and EVERY individual and business must use them, but you simply cannot rely on them to keep you completely safe. Vigilance is the key to overall safety.
So many scams, so little time
Here’s a short list of successful scams that otherwise smart people fall for every day:
- Email phishing scams
- Fake IRS notifications (emails, calls and robo-calls)
- “Just send me a few bucks and I’ll deposit millions into your bank account” scam
- E-card scams
- Guaranteed credit
- “Congratulations! Your name was selected from a contest someone entered you in.”
- Fake Tech Support
- Social media impersonations
- Get rich quick schemes
- Cheap medications via SPAM emails
- “Your package could not be delivered” emails
- Telephone calls claiming outstanding warrants against you
- “Please pay this invoice” emails with infected attachments
The above scams may seem obvious to you but they fool millions of people each day. Criminals know that humans are primarily driven by emotions—with the two most powerful being greed and fear.
Let’s face it, getting notified by “the IRS” will scare just about anyone, while on the flip side, the prospect of making a lot of money with little effort has fueled the dreams of millions.
There are software applications that can help
Please read the last three (3) words of the above very carefully because this is really important. Security programs can help keep you safe, but they can’t guarantee it.
Many people believe that their anti-virus (AV) program will fully protect them, so they click on any link presented—and then wonder why they have constant computer problems.
The very nature of creating definitions to recognize new threats, then updating the AV application to clean them puts security companies in the unfortunate position of playing constant catch-up. Because of this, new malware infects millions of systems before AV companies can create effective responses.
So, AV is most effective on the back-end of the security spectrum, not the front-end where hundreds of thousands of new malware strains are created every day. The good guys simply can’t keep up.
Vigilance is the key to security
Although there are excellent programs and products on the market to help keep you safe—they are not enough. Your best option is to use them while also taking the following steps:
- Use complex passwords of at least 14 characters with a Password Manager to keep track of them all.
- NEVER use the same password for more than 1 application.
- Be careful about clicking on links in emails, especially if you do not know the sender.
- Turn off macros and ActiveX in Microsoft Office applications. Infected attachments often use them to attack computers.
- Never set your browsers to remember login information.
- Always keep at least two copies of backups, preferably one onsite and the other in the cloud.
- Keep operating systems and third party software up-to-date.
- Never use an administrator account for normal use.
- Disable the auto-play feature to stop infections from being passed to your systems through removable media. This leads us to #10 below.
- Never insert unidentified removable media (i.e. CDs, USB drives, etc.) into your PC. Social engineers often leave them in public places, many with official-looking company logos, waiting for someone to plug them in and infect their systems. Now, see #9 above!
- Disable Bluetooth and wireless on laptops and mobile devices when they’re not needed.
- Use an Advanced SPAM filter to block up to 95% of SPAM emails from reaching your inbox.
- Use a good anti-virus program, keep it updated and set it to scan your system every day.
- Always use a firewall (software, hardware or both).
- Take the time to go through your favorite browser’s security settings to stay safe. Heimdal has an excellent guide to show you how to set popular browsers for maximum protection.
- Use an ad blocker to block malicious ads with infected links while browsing the internet.
- Remove unused and outdated software and plugins from your system and browsers.
Staying safe is an individual responsibility and by taking a few steps, you’ll be much safer than the majority of the population. Always remember that no matter how security-minded you are, the people you know can unintentionally undermine your security by using bad computer habits. Educate them for your own sake!
Always be vigilant and stay safe.
Joseph Imperato Sr. is the Managing Partner for XSolutions Consulting Services, a Managed Services Provider (MSP) delivering Computer Support, Business Continuity, Cloud Services, and IT Consulting to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut businesses. Call us at (845) 362-9675 and see how we can help your company.