Computer geeks aside, most people are intimidated to some degree by technology. They learn to run just the apps needed to accomplish the task at hand; master whatever procedures are necessary to get through the day; become acquainted with a few terms to sound like they know what they're talking about ... and cross their fingers that nothing goes wrong. Fortunately-while technology's dark magic is likely to remain a mystery to the average user-the most important steps for avoiding IT disasters are pretty simple.
- Use 'strong' passwords that include upper and lower case, numbers, and special characters. Some people like to use favorite quotes as a memory aid, like Wayne Gretzky's, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Taking the first letters and the full number, you could create this password: Ym100%otsydt. Now THAT is a tough password!
- Use a password vault to help you (but no one else!) remember your passwords.
- Set calendar reminders to change your most important passwords (online banking, PayPal, computer login ... etc.) every three months.
- DO NOT keep post-it notes or spreadsheets of your important passwords under your keyboard or on your monitor.
- If you find a 'new' thumb drive in a parking lot, don't thank your lucky stars! Even though you ALWAYS could use one more of these handy devices, malicious software might be embedded on a device that was purposefully lost with the goal of corrupting someone's computer as soon as he or she put it into a USB drive!
- Free Wi-Fi ... big YAY, right? Nothing is worse than needing to get online for THREE SECONDS to send a SINGLE email and not finding a connection ... or being asked to pay $39 for that privilege. But when you find free Wi-Fi, exercise caution. Do NOT check banking online, or visit websites that require a login (like amazon.com). Assume that anyone with nefarious goals can know where you're going, what you're seeing, and what your passwords are for the duration that you're on free Wi-Fi-including the host of that Wi-Fi! Save your important online work for when you have a private connection protected by your own firewall. The Internet cafe is not the place to log into your secure websites. Want to learn more?
If you have any concerns about anything that sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so just give us a call.
LINKS AND ATTACHMENTS
- NEVER, we repeat, NEVER click suspicious links or links you're not sure of. You can 'check' links by hovering over them and looking at the full URL. If you don't recognize the domain, chances are it's going to be bad for you!
- Use discernment when opening attachments. Were you expecting the file? Do you know the person who sent it to you and do you know WHY it was sent to you? If the file ends .exe or .vbs, skip it! Such files are 'executable,' which means they are programs that will start installing on your computer as soon as you click on them. Who knows what it is? Always download applications from reputable sites or ask SynchroNet for assistance if you need to install another Adobe product for example.
- Know who your friends are when dealing with messages that originate from social media sites. For instance, it's relatively simple for someone to create a doppelganger of a Facebook friend and send out friend requests under the assumed identity. Before you and they start sharing information, links or files, know who's really on the other end of the line.
As you can see, no advanced degree in computer science is required to keep most of technology's nastiest elements at bay. But in situations not covered above, there is one little 'app' that works marvelously, and it's free! It's called Common Sense.