applied tips : february 2009

microsoft windows : five simple ways to improve security

You've no-doubt heard most of these tips before... probably from your IT department because ultimately they're the ones responsible for making sure the network and data is as secure as possible.

While they're doing their thing with firewalls and servers, here's five things that you can do to keep the bad guys out and put a smile on your hard-working IT professionals' faces.

Don't Install What you Don't Trust

The number one way that a computer gets "taken over" is by the user (that could be you) installing software that contained a trojan application just waiting to be unleashed. Sometimes these applications serve annoying advertisements, other times they can record your passwords or open up holes in a well-secured network.

Use a Strong Password

Today's computers are fast, very fast, and they can burn through an entire dictionary of words in a matter of minutes while attempting to get into your account. This "brute force" method of guessing passwords becomes less effective when passwords are strong.

Adding symbols (! @ # $ %) or numbers to your password, spelling things differently, using a mix of capital and lowercase letters, or making up new words or abbreviations are all great ways to improve your password.

Think Twice Before Checking "Save Password"

Entering your password over and over again can be frustrating, but consider the implications if someone were to get onto your machine and the password was already saved for them.

If your machine itself is protected by a strong Windows login, then it might be okay to "Save Password", but think twice on your home machines when you access work-related data, where the security probably isn't as tight.

And never, ever check the Save Password box when you're on a computer that other people might have access to (such as at a library or computer lab)

Lock it Up!

Lock ComputerA practiced hacker can take over a machine in just a few seconds if you walk away and leave them by your computer. It may sound silly and Hollywoodesque, but getting up to go the photocopier is all the time it takes to plug in a USB device to take over your machine.

Whenever you leave your machine unattended, no matter how long, lock it first by pressing Control, Alt, and Delete at the same time, then choose to Lock the computer. It will require your password when you return like an ultra-powerful screen saver.

Shortcut Tip: Use the Windows Key + L to lock your station even faster.

Avoid Questionable Emails

My last tip is one that you've no doubt heard over and over, but it's worth repeating. Viruses spread very quickly through emails as an attachment, often disguised as an invoice, a photo, or a ZIP file.

Whenever you receive an attachment from someone, even someone you know, consider the possibility that it could be a trap! If anything looks even remotely suspicious, call the sender to verify that it's real, or forward it to your IT professional without opening it. 

schedule a class on windows security

Request an on-site Windows security class from Applied Office. Sessions are inexpensive and your network will have one less weak spot to worry about.  Learn more here