X-Pert Advice

Computer Security, T’was the month after X-mas

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Welcome everyone to the redesigned Biz X Magazine website and I’m proud to say I had a small part in its relaunch.

I’ve been a Biz X reader since its inception, and a supporter for nearly 10 years.  Now, in my new role as Computer Security columnist, I’ll have the opportunity to contribute even more to the magazine and its readers.

I’ll be writing regular columns that focus on one or more computer security issues, with the goal of informing and protecting the public from the latest threats.  I encourage readers to comment on the articles, and to use the Contact Form to suggest topics for future columns.

You got the perfect gift – a new computer or cell phone – what about security?

The period directly preceding and following the Christmas holidays traditionally presents a prime opportunity for new security vulnerabilities to visit your home.  Did you get a new computer over the holidays, or maybe a new cell phone?  If so, you have an opportunity to protect yourself now, before the inevitable attempts to compromise your security begin.

The majority of new computers sold use Microsoft’s Windows(R) operating system.  Computers purchased during this holiday season may have come with Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 installed.  I would strongly encourage anyone who bought such a machine to create standard user accounts for themselves, their children and any guests with whom they intend to share their computer.

Standard accounts will not allow new software to be installed without administrator approval.  This is particularly handy when you weren’t expecting new software to be installed (such as when opening an email).  Instructions on how to create a standard account can be found here (Windows 7), here (Windows 8), or here (Windows 10).

Most Windows computers are sold with a “trial copy” of an anti-virus software installed.  Be aware that these programs generally expire within 30 to 90 days.  I encourage you to do some research and decide on an anti-virus program that will deliver the level of protection appropriate to your situation.  There are several good anti-virus programs that can be used at no cost, but most of those are restricted to non-commercial use.  For those who intend to use their computers for business, choose one of the excellent commercial products.

Apple-based products, while generally less prone to attack, are not immune from virus infections.  Be safe, and take precautions to protect your privacy and security.

Cell phones are becoming more and more powerful – with many people using them as their primary device for accessing the internet.  The vast majority of phones currently used around the world use the Android(R) operating system.  A few months ago, Google (the maker of Android software) became aware of a major security flaw that affected upwards of 90% of all Android devices!  That’s because the phone companies that sell you these devices don’t do a good job of keeping them updated once they are more than a year or so old.

New phones bought this Christmas season may still be vulnerable to the recently discovered flaws.  You are encouraged to go online and do some research to determine whether your phone is affected by the latest flaw.  Also, be aware that there are free anti-virus apps for phones, and they can help protect you from viruses and other vulnerabilities.

I apologize in advance for the technical nature of the information you’ll find on the linked websites.  Sometimes, there’s just no “user-friendly” way to get your point across!

Well, I think that’s a wrap for my first article.  I look forward to your feedback and ideas for future columns.  Be safe!

Jack Eisenberg is the owner of Safe and Secure Computing