Wondering how to be more secure in an insecure world? It’s not as difficult as you might assume. The following are eight steps to apply to your computing to improve your system security.
1) If you’re purchasing a system, we recommend Windows users get either Windows 2000 or XP Professional. Both of these systems come with built-in security features not available in Windows 98, ME, or even XP Home Edition. For the most part Mac users or Linux users don’t have to worry as much about security issues but they should make sure they keep up-to-date with the latest patches and updates that need to be applied.
2) Another simple security device is using real passwords. For example, a user name of wsmith for William Smith should not use william as a password. William would also not want to use shirley, his wife’s first name or his license plate number or his address. If William wants to make sure he can remember the password, he could even try wi11iam, substituting the l’s (el) for 1’s (one). While this is also a common password trick, it does move the security up a notch. The best passwords are the also the hardest to remember. How about 45rexcyt, 8 numbers tapped out more or less at random but each pair is next to each other on the keyboard?
3) How long have you had the same password? Changing your password on a regular basis is highly recommended. Unless you’re involved in national security or something similar, “regular basis” doesn’t have to mean every day. Every three to six months is just about right for most small businesses. Of course if you have employee turnover, you also need to make sure unused accounts are disabled or deleted and other passwords are changed accordingly.
4) I still find clients who don’t have antivirus programs installed! If your computer has an Internet connection or a floppy drive, it should also have an antivirus program installed and those virus definitions should be updated on, at the bare minimum, a monthly basis, with a weekly basis being the preferred interval. A quick check of the mcafee.com web site reveals that, since June 28th, at least 30 new viruses have been discovered. If you have installed an antivirus program but haven’t updated it since it was installed, your computer is at risk.
5) Following closely on the heels of a good antivirus program is having a good backup routine so that if you get hit or hacked, you can go back to your clean data. With the advent of recordable and rewritable CD’s, the cost of a fast, efficient backup has plummeted. Most small businesses (1 to 5 computers) don’t need whole system backups because it would be cheaper and faster to reinstall the operating system and applications than to try to restore from a tape backup. The critical thing is to have your data backed up. With one CD able to hold over 700 MB of data, most of us can do quite nicely with a CD burner and supply of rewritable CDs.
6) If you’ve got an always on internet connection like a cable modem or DSL router plugged directly into your computer or network and don’t have any software firewall installed, your computer is at great risk of being hacked. Once hacked, your computer could have all its data erased or be used to launch a denial of service attack on another computer. There are many hardware and software firewall options available depending on your needs but zonealarm.com has a decent software firewall free for individual and non-profit users.
7) We wholeheartedly endorse doing business online. There are hundreds of ways you can save money by either selling or buying online. But do it with your eyes wide open. Don’t do business with a company that doesn’t have a phone number and / or physical address or you might be kissing your money goodbye.
8) Looking for a real low-tech security solution? Turn your computer and / or router off at night. Does that always on Internet connection need to be on all night? If not, you can turn it off at night (check with your technology provider to determine how to best do this if you’re not sure). Of course, if you have backups or other automated processes that run in the wee hours, you’ll want to make sure you leave the computers on but you still might be able to turn off your Internet connection.
One of the best marketing tools for businesses from 1 to 10,000 is to present a consistent image to the public. EduCyber can help design or redesign your company logo and feature it on your web site’s pages to help you present your company in a consistent manner.
The Weather Channel (www.weather.com) has a couple of different programs that can help you stay on top of the weather. So whether you’re interested in whether the weather is fit for golf or whether the weather will affect your business, you should check them out. (Whew, didn’t think I’d weather that last sentence.)
The first program is Desktop Weather. It took me less than five minutes to sign up on their web site and download the small program. Once downloaded it only took another minute to install the program, simply indicating my zip code so they knew what forecast to give me. Now my local temperature is visible on the task bar (sorry Mac users, The Weather Channel hasn’t made a program for you – at least not yet) and I need only double-click it to get a complete forecast along with current conditions – temperature, barometer and wind speed. Be aware that any program running in the background like this does use system resources and can have a negative effect on overall system performance. If you install the program and have problems, you can either uninstall it or increase your system’s memory.
The second program is Inbox Weather. We haven’t tried this one but it sounds pretty cool as well. When you sign up, download, and install the Infuzer program, you can then set up your The Weather Channel account to add the five day weather forecast automatically to your calendar program. If you’re on the go and using a handheld, this could be quite useful. For more information, visit their web site.
© 2002 EduCyber, Inc. This newsletter is brought to you by EduCyber, Inc. https://www.educyber.com Permission is hereby granted to redistribute all or part of this newsletter as long as this copyright message is included.
For questions, or to be removed from this monthly newsletter distribution, email us at email@example.com.
Or at least it seems like it’s in the air. What are we talking about? Setting up a network in your home or small office has never been easier. A few years back my home-based office was in a finished basement. Running wires for our network was difficult and some of the wires just had to be left visible where they went through the floor / ceiling. I wish I could go back in time as that network would be quite easy to install now with no holes or wires sticking out. Wireless networking has at last come into its own.
The typical setup for a wireless network is simple and inexpensive. A wireless router is used to send out the signal. Then the individual computers just need a wireless network card installed. A few simple adjustments to the wireless router and you are networked. No cables to run. No holes to drill. No hassle.
So what’s the catch? Well some may tell you that the current transfer speeds are unacceptable. While many of the affordable routers have wireless transfer rates of 11 Mbps, the actual rate is usually around half that. For most homes or small offices, that is more than enough bandwidth. One of the most common uses of a small network is to share Internet access. Unless you have a T1 coming into your office, your network bandwidth will probably exceed your Internet bandwidth.
The most important part of a wireless network is security. While testing a wireless network recently, I was able to sit in my car in front of my client’s place and “bum a ride” on their Internet access. I could also see the computers on their network. A malicious hacker could easily cause problems with this setup. There are several simple solutions to security depending on your setup and needs. So if you’re ready to give it a try, give us a call at (303) 268-2245 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So your CD drive has died and its time to buy a new one. But wait, technology is changing and perhaps you don’t want just a plain old CD drive anymore. In fact you have quite an array of choices available.
The first choice we’ll look at is that “plain old CD drive.” A new one, with a speed of 52X or 56X will only cost around $50 to $70. The number refers to the speed at which the drive reads the data from the disk. A 56x drive can read data at 56 times 150 KB / second. That is about the speed where CD drives have topped out. Why aren’t they continuing to get faster? Other, more promising technologies can do the job better.
But if you want to stick with a CD drive, you should at least try either a CD-R or a CD-RW. A CD-R drive can, in addition to reading the data on a CD, record data onto a CD. A CD-RW can read and record data AND it can also erase and then rewrite data on a CD. If for no other reason, you should consider one of these as a very simple and cheap way to back up your data – spreadsheets, word documents, email, financial data, etc. Drives start at around $120 and recordable discs can be had for as little as 50 cents each for a pack of 80 at many box stores.
But any CD drive purchased will likely be dated technology in the next five years. The latest technology is a DVD (digital video disc) drive. One very appealing feature of DVD drives is that they are backwardly compatible with CDs so you don’t have to throw out all of your old discs and start over. Low end DVD drives start at around $80. What makes a DVD better than a CD? The most data you can put on a CD is 850 MB. A DVD can hold 4.7 GB of data or more. Suddenly whole movies can fit on a single disk. Or the entire contents of your computer. Or the text of 1000’s of books. Or a substantial amount of your favorite music.
But if you want to go with the latest technology then you’ll want to try a DVD-R. As you may have guessed, a DVD-R allows you not only to read data from DVDs and CDs but also to write data to them. Starting in the low $300s, a DVD-R could be just the thing your tired old computer needs to add new spark.
One of the most nagging problems for computer users is the way their system slows down over time. One of the main causes of this slow down is the clutter on the hard disk. “Tidying up” the clutter can have dramatic effects on the performance of your computer.
The way Windows handles files is by breaking them into chunks to store on the hard drive. When all of those chunks are grouped together, the time required to access them is much faster. Unfortunately, Windows does not automatically put all of those chunks together. In fact, the default behavior of Windows is to NOT put the chunks together. Fortunately there are programs available that will tidy up your system by putting all those chunks together. Windows even comes with its own utility for doing this.
The chunks are called file fragments so the utility is called a defragmenter although a dechunker sounds cooler. Anyway, depending on when, if ever, your computer was last defragmented, the first time you run it, it could take a while. We’re talking hours. Before you can run it, you need to make sure that your computer has at least 15% of the drive to be defragmented free.
Then, once you’ve run it, the next time you start to run the defragmenter, you’ll likely be told that the drive doesn’t need to be defragmented. Run it anyway. If you wait until Windows thinks you need it, it will take longer and performance will be an issue. Best frequency for running defragmenter? Most computers will maintain best performance (at least as far as file fragmentation goes) if you defragment once a month.
The Windows defragmenter can be found in the Program Files – Accessories – System Tools menu.
When was the last time you updated the operating system on your computer? What about the main software applications you use? The SANS (System Administration, Networking and Security) Institute’s list of the top 20 most critical Internet Vulnerabilities is topped by “standard” installations – the kind where you let the software make all the choices for you. Many of the choices made for you can leave your computer or network open to attack.
The second biggest vulnerability? Weak passwords. Birthdays, your dog’s name, your license plate number. All of these may be easy for you to remember but they’re also easy for others to guess or find out. Taping your password to your monitor or leaving it in your top desk drawer are not good security techniques either. If you have employees accessing the network or computer system, it is important to require good passwords (at least 6 or 8 characters and at least 2 numbers or non-letter characters) and to require that passwords be changed on a regular basis (e.g. every three months).
Lack of a good backup procedure is third on the list. While it might not seem like an internet vulnerability at first, see what happens when a hacker manages to break into your system and destroy your data or when a virus erases your company database. If you don’t have a procedure for backing up (and for restoring) that data, you could really be in trouble.
To view the whole list visit the SANS Institute web site at http://www.sans.org/top20.htm. If you find your computer or network are at risk, call (303 421-2223) or email (email@example.com) us for assistance.
© 2002 EduCyber, Inc. This newsletter is brought to you by EduCyber, Inc. Permission is hereby granted to redistribute all or part of this newsletter as long as this copyright message is included. https://www.educyber.com
For questions, or to be removed from this monthly newsletter distribution, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OK, I’ve been telling enough people about this that it’s time to just publish it. The absolute best way to search on the Internet is with Google’s new search bar. Instead of having to leave the page you’re on to visit your favorite search engine, the google bar hangs out at the top of your screen. Just type your search words in the search field and away you go. You can configure it so that searches open in a new window, letting you keep the page you were on open.
One thing I like about Google is that they’re very upfront about what they’re doing and what you get. With the advanced features toolbar, you are giving Google the right to collect information about what sites you visit. They use this information not to target you with advertising but to improve their search engine. You can also get the google bar without the advanced features and without allowing Google to collect your sites visited information.
Installing the toolbar is a snap. Simply visit www.google.com, and click on the Google Toolbar link. Read the directions and click on the Get the Google Toolbar! button. You need to read a few more instructions and click on I agree and then choose whether you want the advanced tools or not. The file itself isn’t large and installs itself so you don’t have to know the answers to any complicated questions.
Check out your local library. Last week I discovered that my local library is buying online services for me. Is that cool or what? An individual subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online costs $70 a year. By visiting my county library’s website, entering the barcode on my library code and clicking on the Encyclopedia Britannica link, I can use this service at no cost – other than the property tax I already pay. The EB service is just one of many that I would have to pay myself if I went directly to that service’s site but is free when I go through the county library site. Offerings differ from county to county but all of the following Denver metro area links have some services that you can access as long as you have a card. Don’t have a card yet? Most counties let you apply for a card online. If you don’t see your county listed below, try doing a search at your favorite search engine for “countyname county library statename” to quickly locate your library.
Jefferson County: http://www.jefferson.lib.co.us/
Denver County: http://www.denver.lib.co.us/index.html
Adams County: http://www.adams.lib.co.us/
Douglas County: http://www.douglas.lib.co.us/
Arapahoe County: http://www.arapahoelibraries.org/
Boulder County: http://www.boulder.lib.co.us/
We get from five to ten spam messages a day promising wonderful results for outrageous prices to get our web site ranked. The key is not to have your web site listed in the search engines but to have it ranked high for the key words that your potential customers are most likely to search for.
For example, since EduCyber is based in Wheat Ridge, we’d like to appear on the first page of results for a search with the key words “Wheat Ridge computer internet”. A search at altavista.com reveals that we appear in the number one position which tells us that our efforts are paying off. Of course it would be even better to appear on the first page of results in a search for “Denver computer internet” as the potential audience is much larger. Returning to altavista, we find that EduCyber drops to fourth but still gets a prominent rank on the very first page of results.
Attaining a high search engine ranking is not for every site. If the purpose of your site is to communicate with existing customers, like if most of your site is hidden behind passwords, then you probably won’t benefit much from a high ranking. But if part or most of your purpose in having a web site is to widen your customer base, then you need to work on this.
Need help? Give us a call at (303) 268-2245. For a limited time, we are offering a $100 special on improving your web rankings. Over two months we work with you to look at the content and design of your site, working to raise your ranking.