Computer Security Fundamentals

Viruses, house fires, theft, lightning strikes, hackers and more — it’s a list of potential computer disasters that would stop a hyena from laughing. You cannot be absolutely safe, because the bad guys and the fickle finger of fate are always cooking up new ways to turn your life into a cyber-hell. Fortunately, a few simple steps will prevent most physical and virtual threats to your system and your data.

Physical Security:

(1) Most modern electronics require very little physical attention, beyond some common sense rules:


  • Don’t drop computer equipment. (Yeah, you would think it goes without saying, but you would be wrong. There are people that clueless.)
  • Dust is bad for microcircuits. Wipe down the computer case with a dusting cloth and blow all openings clean with canned air. If your place gets really dusty, prior learning assessment and recognition an air purifier is a good investment.
  • Water and electronics don’t mix, at least, not in a friendly fashion. Keep your PC dry. If you live in a very humid climate, a dehumidifier is a good investment.
  • Flowing electricity generates heat, which will reduce the service life of microcircuits. Keep your computer system well ventilated. Placing them in fully-enclosed cabinets is not recommended. If the internal fans aren’t up to the job, a small external fan or two can keep enough air moving to hold the temperature down.


(2) Use power protection to safeguard your computer: Should you worry about every thunderstorm or brownout? Yes, cutting power suddenly won’t definitely hurt your computer, but physical and data damage is always possible. An uninterruptible power supply (or UPS) is a big battery that will keep your computer hardware running long enough to save your work and shut everything down properly. Never plug your PC directly into the power grid. Surge protectors are like fuses: they detect sudden increases in electrical flow and cut off that flow before a tsunami of electrons drown your hardware. Neither of these problems occurs often, but once is enough to cause you a world of grief!

(3) Collect all your original hardware paperwork (purchase receipts, warranties, etc.) and store them off-site — with relatives, your lawyer, in a safe deposit box, or wherever you store birth certificates, passports and other vital documents. If you lose your office or home, you can’t lose what isn’t there and these will be vital when you file a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance claim. (Oh, by the way, get homeowner’s or renter’s insurance!)

(4) Lock your computer system. Just because most computer crimes involve data, don’t think the burglary problem has disappeared. If someone breaks into your home or office, they will steal your hardware as certainly as an ID thief will steal your SSN. Wire cables, padlocks, keylocks and related items will secure your hardware in place. Thieve are lazy, they’re looking for an easy mark — don’t be one and they’ll probably go somewhere else.

Virtual security:

The greatest danger of cyber-crime is the attitude of cyber-criminals: “Victims aren’t people, they’re just computers!” or “Hey, look, I dropped out of high school but I’m smarter than a software engineer!” No, they are not; no you are not. Unfortunately, until those attitudes changes, cyber-crime isn’t going away.

(1) Protect (and better manage) your computer system by using utilities software:


  • Anti-spyware prevents outside software from reading private files and sending the data outside your computer system.
  • Anti-virus software prevents outside programs from entering and damaging your computer system.
  • Compression software reduces the size of files, allowing more to be stored in the system.
  • Encryption software codes files so only individuals with clearance can open or read them.
  • Firewall software acts like a cyber-traffic cop; it prevents unauthorized communication by your software or devices with the outside and inspects incoming traffic, granting passage only to items previously cleared to enter.
  • Monitoring software allows system administrators to track use of computers (also a great tool for parents to keep an eye on children in cyber-space).


(2) Don’t open email attachments unless you know and trust the sender. Even then, be cautious, many people have had their email accounts hacked and used without their knowledge, let alone their permission. When in doubt, delete.

(3) Patch your operating system. Even the best programmers make mistakes or hackers may find other vulnerabilities. In either case, programmers create “patches,” operating system updates that correct problems hackers might employ. Visit your OS supplier’s website regularly and see what new patches are available for your software.


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