Privacy and security

Keeping your information secure

What can I do to protect my electronic information on an individual level?

It is now a fact of life. Purchasing a new computer for your own personal use (and even a number of Cloud services) is never equipped with the security tools you'll need. If you want to protect your information and the threat of internet attacks, you must acquire the tools and the knowledge of how to improve the security of your computer and its data.

Mr John N. Stewart agrees. He writes in his article entitled, Securing the Internet Desktop, on page 96:

"An out-of-the-box operating system or a computer that you brought home from your local computer store is not ready for the Internet. It might be able to get you connected quickly, and you may get a free account through a participating ISP, but by being connected to the Internet, you've opened yourself up for more than just surfing.

Take appropriate precautionary steps, and install the software required to protect the computer you use on a day-to-day basis." (1)

A summary of computer security

For the average computer user, the most effective ways of protecting your information are as follows:

  1. To password-protect your sensitive files, hard disk and other areas you consider sensitive and requires protection using strong encryption software.
  2. To disconnect your computer from any network such as the Internet until you have an absolute need to get online, or be connected with other people.
  3. To keep your time online to an absolute minimum.
  4. To take your computer (or your sensitive digital information on a portable, durable and reliable storage device) with you at all times, especially if your data is not properly password-protected.
  5. To use a laptop (or handheld device) instead of a desktop machine because it is easier to carry around with you; and
  6. To use a reputable file shredding or deleting software (because tools are available, mainly from the CIA, to bypass password-protected disks and read the files directly off your hard disk).

A more comprehensive look at computer security

Here is a more complete checklist for the security-minded computer owner:

Encrypt sensitive information

Use strong encryption for sensitive email messages

Try to use a good password and don't tell anyone about it

Minimise access to a network where possible

Hide your email address(es)

Keep your IP address hidden from public view

Remove unnecessary log/cache/cookie files etc.

Turn off ActiveX and JavaScript

Clean up invisible temporary files

Clean up preference files

Disable the Forms AutoComplete feature of Microsoft Internet Explorer

Remove spyware

Be careful with commercial applications that can secretly attach any file on your hard disk to the commercial files you create and send to others with the applications

Be careful about relying on Microsoft-only (or Apple-only) products for everything you do as you may experience greater security problems

Be careful with those products that attempt to link your personal information with serial numbers

Use anonymous registration details in commercial applications and online, and do not send in warranty/registration cards

Remove your personal details from electronic databases

Carry sensitive digital information with you at all times

Don't send sensitive digital information to anyone

If you must send sensitive digital information to someone, make sure your software is secure and you are sending it to the right person

Wipe clean the free space on your hard disk

Stop computer viruses in their tracks!

Beware the trojans!

Keep your network-related and operating system software updated

Stick to an operating system that you know is secure and safe

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