Did you know that November 30th is National Computer Security Day? This is in addition to October’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month and Data Privacy Day on January 28th.  

I often have people tell me they do not know how old their computer is or if it is running updated software. I respond that if it is not running an updated Operating System and applications, the security of its data and your own passwords could be compromised. People then say they only use it for games and to surf the internet. When I tell them it is still especially important to run supported and updated operating system and applications, they ask why. Computer Security aligns well with the best practices we are now dealing with COVID-19.

Computer safety and securityCOVID-19 safety
Use anti-virusGet a flu shot
Run anti-virus scansPerform health and temp checks
Avoid unknown/trusted internet websitesAvoid large social gatherings
Apply computer patches and updatesWear gloves and masks
Use caution with public Pc’s & personal dataSocial distance 6 feet apart in public
Unsupported software can spread malwareAsymptomatic people can spread COVID
Use caution with email links and attachmentsEnsure visitors follow safety guidelines
Pc Botnets (botnet defined via CSO Online)Super spreader event

The last item in the table is a big reason you want your computer to be up to date with a supported operating system and programs, EVEN IF you do not care about your own confidential data or passwords. A malware (malicious software) infected computer can be used to spread even more malware. Or worse, it could be used in an attack along with thousands of other infected computers. This is known as a Denial-of-Service Attack, or Distributed Denial of Service Attack or DDoS. Imagine you are performing services at your home, say cooking. A neighbor kid rings your doorbell, you stop to answer door, but he ran away. This can be viewed as a DOS attack because you stopped cooking to answer the door. Now, imagine he has all his friends ringing your front doorbell, knocking on back doors, calling you, texting you, etc. Dinner is now burnt. This scenario could loosely be aligned with a DDoS attack. In the world of computer security, someone in control of thousands of infected Pc’s could issue a DDoS attack on a company’s website, a 911 call center or even a hospital. Therefore you need supported and up-to-date software so your computer can be secure.

National Computer Security Day is November 30.

These tips can help keep computers secure:

  • Password strength: 10 + characters long, mix of letters, numbers and special characters and unique for each system.  Your NCC password should not be the same as your social media or banks password. To pick a strong password, think of a sentence: Say, I cannot wait until pandemic is over. Pick the first letter of each word. Icwupio. Then add the last 4 digits of a friends Cell number. Icwupio5413. More password tips here.
  • Regularly update all your applications and Operating System. Still running Windows XP or Windows 7 at home? You need to update to Windows 10 to remain secure.  Restarting your computer regularly ensures updates complete their install process. 
  • Always run a supported Anti-Malware program. Ensure it’s kept up to date.
  • Internet Browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge and their associated Plugins must be up-to-date with latest versions.  Old versions have security and compatibility bugs. 
  • Scrutinize emails having links and attachments, even if sender is known.  Spoofing a “from address” is easy.  It’s also possible a hacker has control over a trusted colleague or friends’ email because they fell for a phishing email and gave up their credentials to the hacker. 
  • Backup important files and photos to a location that can be physically disconnected from the internet, such as a USB drive.  Ransomware has been known to not only encrypt (which basically corrupts the files unless you have the decryption key) files on your computer, but also to files stored in Dropbox or other cloud storage. The hackers then force you to pay money to decrypt the files. If you backup sensitive information to a USB drive, get one that requires a password to view contents.  This safeguards the data. 
  • Where possible, enable Multi-Factor authentication.  This makes it harder for a hacker to gain access to your accounts as it requires both your password and a PIN code sent to your mobile device before logging in.
  • Protecting your personal files and those of the college is all our responsibility.  Stay aware and informed of current cyber threats by signing up to receive cyber security alerts here: https://us-cert.cisa.gov. Another excellent resource for staying safe online is from the National Cyber Security Alliance here: https://staysafeonline.org For more cyber security news and investigations follow blogger Brian Krebs. https://krebsonsecurity.com