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Computer Security Tips and Best Practices

Protecting yourself is very challenging in the hostile environment of the internet. Imagine a global environment where an unscrupulous person from the other side of the planet can probe your computer for weaknesses, and exploit them to gain access to your most sensitive secrets.

They can even use your computer to store data like stolen credit-card numbers or child pornography, or to attack another innocent home user or business from your system.

Here’s Kevin Mitnick’s Top 10 list of steps you should take to protect your information and your computing resources from the bad boys and girls of cyberspace.

#1. Back up everything! You are not invulnerable. Catastrophic data loss can happen to you — one worm or Trojan is all it takes.

#2. Choose passwords that are reasonably hard to guess — don’t just append a few numbers to a no-brainer. Always change default passwords.

#3. Use an antivirus product like AVG or Norton, and set it to update daily.

#4. Update your OS religiously and be vigilant in applying all security patches released by the software manufacturer.

#5. Avoid hacker-bait apps like Internet Explorer and disable automatic scripting on your e-mail client.

#6. Use encryption software like PGP (pretty good privacy) when sending sensitive e-mail. You can also use it to protect your entire hard drive.

#7. Install a spyware detection app — or even several. Programs that can be set to run frequently, like SpyCop, are ideal.

#8. Use a personal firewall. Configure it to prevent other computers, networks and sites from connecting to you, and specify which programs are allowed to connect to the net automatically.

#9. Disable any system services you’re not using, especially apps that could give others remote access to your computer (like Remote Desktop, RealVNC and NetBIOS).

#10. Secure your wireless networks. At home, enable WPA (Wi-Fi protected access) with a password of at least 20 characters. Configure your laptop to connect in Infrastructure mode only, and don’t add networks unless they use WPA.

Hackers are becoming more sophisticated in conjuring up new ways to hijack your system by exploiting technical vulnerabilities or human nature. Don’t become the next victim of unscrupulous cyberspace intruders.

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Author: Ajit Gaddam

Ajit Gaddam is an accomplished technology executive and is currently the Head of Security Engineering at Visa, where he is responsible for building large scale AI driven cybersecurity products, leading engineering programs, and providing expert guidance on cybersecurity matters. He has presented at conferences worldwide, including USENIX Enigma, RSA, Black Hat, Strata Data Hadoop, COSO Dublin, and GCS Ukraine. Ajit has been quoted by major media organizations and his work has been showcased in academic journals, security publications, and in two published books. He is an active participant in various open source and standards bodies, is a prolific inventor of disruptive technologies (over 100+ global patents), and moonlights as an instructor (SANS, community colleges).

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