Personal Information Security
We will end this chapter with a discussion of what measures each of us, as individual users, can take to secure our computing technologies. There is no way to have 100% security, but there are several simple steps we, as individuals, can take to make ourselves more secure.
- Keep your software up to date. Whenever a software vendor determines that a security flaw has been found in their software, they will release an update to the software that you can download to fix the problem. Turn on automatic updating on your computer to automate this process.
- Install antivirus software and keep it up to date. There are many good antivirus software packages on the market today, including free ones.
- Be smart about your connections. You should be aware of your surroundings. When connecting to a Wi-Fi network in a public place, be aware that you could be at risk of being spied on by others sharing that network. It is advisable not to access your financial or personal data while attached to a Wi-Fi hotspot. You should also be aware that connecting USB flash drives to your device could also put you at risk. Do not attach an unfamiliar flash drive to your device unless you can scan it first with your security software.
- Back up your data. Just as organizations need to back up their data, individuals need to as well. And the same rules apply: do it regularly and keep a copy of it in another location. One simple solution for this is to set up an account with an online backup service, such as Mozy or Carbonite, to automate your backups.
- Secure your accounts with two-factor authentication. Most e-mail and social media providers now have a two-factor authentication option. The way this works is simple: when you log in to your account from an unfamiliar computer for the first time, it sends you a text message with a code that you must enter to confirm that you are really you. This means that no one else can log in to your accounts without knowing your password and having your mobile phone with them.
- Make your passwords long, strong, and unique. For your personal passwords, you should follow the same rules that are recommended for organizations. Your passwords should be long (eight or more characters) and contain at least two of the following: upper-case letters, numbers, and special characters. You also should use different passwords for different accounts, so that if someone steals your password for one account, they still are locked out of your other accounts.
- Be suspicious of strange links and attachments. When you receive an e-mail, tweet, or Facebook post, be suspicious of any links or attachments included there. Do not click on the link directly if you are at all suspicious. Instead, if you want to access the website, find it yourself and navigate to it directly.
You can find more about these steps and many other ways to be secure with your computing by going to Stop. Think. Connect. This website is part of a campaign that was launched in October of 2010 by the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Messaging Convention in partnership with the U.S. government, including the White House.