The police department arrests and detains criminals, the fire department puts out fires, doctors treat illnesses; so where do IT professionals fall in a list like this? I would say they “resolve technical issues”. Now we can expand each of these groups scopes of work and make it about education, early detection, and prevention. But often we allow ourselves to use that increased scope to avoid our own obligation in these areas. If you leave your house unlocked you are easier to steal from, if you leave your stove on all day you are more likely to have a fire, if you eat bad and never exercise you are more likely to have health issues. If you click every link, surf every dark corner of the Internet and skip every update prompt you are more likely to have computer issues. The first three seem pretty much common sense and the last one may also but we often don’t take the steps to prevent issues. So what can we do to take more responsibility of our IT? Glad you asked. Here are a few things that have been on my mind as I have been reading more and more about security and performance issues in technology of small business.
So let’s start with the easy one and the one that you can take to your home devices also. Make sure you are on a supported OS, not Windows XP for you Microsoft users, and make sure the system is either setup to automatic patch itself or that you do it manually when the system alerts you to patches. This also goes for applications. Adobe Acrobat, Flash, FireFox and Chrome issue patches to close security loop holes. You can also make sure you are running some form of Anti-X suite (Virus, Malware, Spyware) that is also updated and current. I have seen PCs that came with a program installed and once it comes up for renewal people don’t renew it and just let it keep running as is. There are a number of good ones out there from Webroot, Intel, Norton, and others. We all have opinions about which is the best but in the end not having one we can all agree is the worst.
What else can you do? You can have a good password. I know I seem to put this out there every time I get close to this subject but I continue to be amazed by the passwords people tell me they use. If you don’t want to remember them all, and yes each site and system should have a unique password, then get a password manager like LastPass or Password Vault. They will store them all normally in an encrypted file or cloud system that only your master password can gain access to, so yes that one has to be very well constructed. You can also use the bio-metric devices built into your phone, tablet, and computers to log in securely. Don’t forget about the passwords to other things like your firewall/router either at home or work or your WIFI key if you are using secure WIFI at home or work, and I hope you are. And just like your personal passwords don’t share these with people that should not have them. Because you never know where their devices have been before they “connect” to you.
How many of you have used a public WIFI at say a Starbucks? Have you ever been anywhere and not been able to find one of those trusted locations like Starbucks to get online when you needed to? Many of us will look through the list of visible WIFI when we are sitting in a city trying to get something done and decide to connect to an open signal. But how safe is that? Many people put out these “honey pot” WIFI signals to try and capture your traffic or infect your device. The worst place is in an airport or hotel/conference center. If you aren’t 100% sure the network you are connecting to is the one from the property go ask and be sure before you start sending email or typing passwords that someone else might see. Also not sure if you are aware but trying to connect to a WIFI network that you aren’t authorized to use can be seen as trespassing and illegal much less connecting to it and using it even if it is open is considered trespassing and is illegal.
If you feel that security is something that others in your organization might benefit from hearing about check out these links as they provide great videos, posters and other content focused on end-user awareness and training.
Hopefully you will lock your doors, turn off your stoves, eat a little better and secure your technology just a little better. What else can you do to be secure and safe with technology? Feel free to drop me a line to talk about it.