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Christmas Break Cyber Security

HTS Provides layers of security for our business customers, here are some suggestions for you to add some layers of security for your home IT. Christmas is a great time to shop for tech deals and catch up with family and acquaintances, whether in person or electronically. It’s also a great time for cyber criminals to operate various scams online to steal your identity and compromise your home machines with malware. Why not take some time during your winter break to get your home IT security in shape? This is also a good checklist for moving to a new machine that you may buy or receive as a gift.

1 Use a Password Manager 

The Equifax breach brought a stark reality to most of America’s attention – customer information gleaned from a breach is dumped online and criminals pore over it, attempting to steal identities and compromise accounts. Someone that recycles passwords over and over across common internet services is extremely vulnerable to these types of lazy mass identify thefts. This can be prevented by disciplining yourself into using a password manager and avoiding the impulse to use the bare minimum password complexity. There are many commercial and free password managers available, many people have one already and are unaware that it exists. (Apple Keychain for instance). Check out PC Magazines 2017 Password Manager roundup to help you decide which one is right for you.

2 Use Next Generation Endpoint Security (Not traditional Anti Virus software)

The typical home PC from Costco comes preloaded with Symantec or McAfee software that does barely anything, and provides the consumer with a false sense of security. It’s been quite some time since traditional “Anti-Virus” software has been effective at all. Windows Defender which is built into Windows 7, 8 and 10 has came a long way towards providing some sort of security but leaves a lot to be desired. It shouldn’t be the case that your office PC is protected by new effective endpoint security and your home PC is left to face the myriad internet threats unshielded. Check out Tech Radar’s Best AV Software of 2017 comparison to help you decide.

3 Sanitize your browser extensions and temp files

It’s common to sit down in front of a relative or friends machine, (which is a recent machine with an SSD and 16GB of RAM) and open up their default browser only to discover that it responds like Netscape Navigator running on Windows 98. This is almost always due to a huge amount of cached data and browser extensions that the user wasn’t even fully aware were installed and running in the background. How To Geek has a good summary of how to remove extensions from Chrome, Firefox and other browsers. Keeping temp files to a reasonable size is also a good way to speed up browsers, and to clear general junk off of the system. Windows built in ‘Disk Cleanup’ utility is great for removing general temp files, but for a quick and easy way to keep your home PC free of junk there is always the reliable and venerable CCleaner.

4 Use ad blocking and anti-tracking software or browser extensions

I know that we just got done recommending you to minimize your browser extensions, but there are certain browser extensions that you can’t do without. Ads cover most of the internet, many of them from unscrupulous sources and many of them are more than just simple advertisements. The internet becomes a much friendlier, cleaner place with ads blocked or disabled as much as possible. Ad block plus still does a good job and is available for free for most browsers. Privacy, tracking and advertisement networks are another intrusive pest – following you from site to site and logging your behaviour for marketing algorithms. Disable a lot of this behaviour using Disconnect.me, which allows you to block trackers and privatize your search results.

5 Enable 2FA on your email accounts

Two Factor authentication ties your email/financial/social network accounts to a cell phone or authentication app, adding a difficult hurdle for hackers to get over in order to access your account in the first place. More and more providers are adding two factor authentication as an option, check out turnon2fa to find instructions for different sites that you may use on a day to day basis.

6 Encrypt your home machines using BitLocker

Windows 10 includes BitLocker drive encryption, allowing you to fully encrypt and protect your personal data from theft and unwanted intruders. It does require that you keep track of your Bit Locker keys after turning it on – so make extra sure you stash the keys somewhere safely. Windows 10 – Enable Drive Encryption

7 Keep off-site, off-line backups

Windows has included simple, functional backup for quite some time. If you have hundreds of gigs of family pictures and video’s, backup drives are inexpensive and Windows backup is trivial to setup. Don’t get too complacent with your backup drives though, to safe guard against theft, drive failure or disaster use Windows Backup with at least two drives that are swapped out regularly. Amazon Drive also offers unlimited photo storage for (Only for images, no video unfortunately) Prime subscribers, which is a really great perk and a fast and easy way to protect your irreplaceable family pictures.

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