Computer Security for Writers
Keep viruses and hackers at bay!
Not many writers know that a simple security precaution added to a home computer can provide protection above-and-beyond anti-virus software.
Short and simple, most viruses and automated hacks occur because a user doesn't have an administrator username-and-password established on their computer.
Also because the user has not created a second user account that does not have administrator rights - to be used for normal, daily computer use (like writing Hubs).
Here’s how to do it.
Two user accounts on your writing computer.
Establish two user accounts on your home or home office computer - an administrator account for software - and a separate daily-use account for normal use:
- The administrator account should have full privileges that allow you to download software and make important changes to your computer.
- The daily-use account should have limited privileges, and will not allow you to download or install software while signed in to the account.
The best time to do this, of course, is when you buy a new computer - but you can do it any time with an old or new computer.
Healthy usernames and passwords.
Both of your new user accounts should have separate, very-hard-to-guess usernames and strong passwords to ensure that you - and only you - or people you trust - are able to sign in to your computer.
Before you get started, keep in mind that it is not wise to use personal names, birth dates, street addresses or other information that can be obtained by social engineering (for example, when someone who knows you - or knows something about you - already knows your username - and simply guesses your password).
So. Create two separate usernames with at least eight characters and random combinations of letters, numbers and symbols that are hard to guess.
For example, if the information presented in this Hub is a big surprise to you - and you’re suddenly mistrustful of the hacker community at large - go with something like XXRRAAYY781verystrong** for an administrator user name - and SUPERDUPER254evenstronger!! - as your daily-use user name.
The above usernames are obviously beyond strong - probably too hard to remember - and are for example purposes only. You do not necessarily need to create usernames that are way too long or too complicated to remember.
I, for example, use variations on clichés (English is not a dead language, aye) - and number combinations that are easy to remember - for my usernames.
You should also never use the words admin or administrator - or any other word that may be associated with the terms administrator or user - for user names. Those are some of the first words that hackers and automated scripts attempt to use on your system.
Don’t use the word password, pass, or anything similar for your new passwords.
Same as your usernames - create passwords with at least eight characters, randomly selecting combinations of letters, numbers and symbols that are hard to guess.
Strong - not forgetful.
Keep in mind that your new home computer usernames and passwords will be case sensitive:
- You should legibly jot down all username and password information to store in a safe location.
- Note that if you lose or forget your sign-in information, you may have to reformat your hard drive to gain access to your own computer.
This process is that important - and that secure.
And since most computer hacks occur because people find someone's password written on a sticky attached to the computer - a safe location for your new usernames and passwords might be in a fire-safe box that has one key - with the key stored elsewhere (not stuck in the box lock) - and don't forget where you place the key.
Limited time online for the admin account.
You will also need to limit the amount of time you stay online while signed in as administrator on your computer.
For example, it's not wise to stay signed in as administrator while writing a Hub.
If someone or something enters your computer while you are signed in as administrator - all permissions, user names and passwords may be acquired by default - because the virus or automated hack can virtually see your information - as you gave them permission to do so by being online while signed in as administrator.
In other words, they can take over your computer without you even being aware.
Worse, it may not be possible to remove the security breach from your computer without reformatting your hard drive.
All that - plus, most writers prefer to retain the privacy of their words until they go to print.
It's actually fairly easy for those with criminal minds to enter your computer by randomly scanning the Internet for vulnerable computers - or by obtaining your computer IP address from an opened spam email message - one of the many reasons you should never open or reply to spam email, or any email message sent from someone you do not know.
Obviously, you have to sign in as administrator to download software and security updates for your computer.
The trick is to only stay signed in for very short, necessary periods to minimize the time your computer can be targeted.
Hackers and viruses tend to move on if they can't find a weak computer.
In a nutshell, it is impossible to stop a determined hacker or automated virus from entering your computer, but there are additional layers of protection you can add to minimize risk.
The general idea is to force hackers and viruses to skip past your computer(s), as they do not have time to concentrate on one computer that is way more secure than all the others.
- Turn off all of the other user accounts on your computer.
- If you use a network computer - ask your network administrator to assist you with accomplishing the above.
- Ensure your operating system firewall is switched to the on position.
- If you have anti-virus software that creates a separate firewall in the on position - that's fine, too - but one of the two firewalls must be on.
- Establish more firewalls on all computer connections where it is possible to do so - they're everywhere - you just have to look for them.
- Make sure your automatic software and security update settings are enabled on your computer - and run manual anti-virus and anti-spyware scans often - daily, at a minimum.
- Also schedule scans that run when your computer is on but not in use (if you can take your computer offline during these periods, that's even better).
- Download or buy as much anti-virus, anti-spyware, and/or anti-malware software as possible - you usually just need one program to do everything.
- And if you use more than one type of anti-virus software, make sure the programs do not conflict with each other.
- Always buy or upgrade to the latest year's version of all software that you use - as soon as you can afford it.
Worth the effort ...
If it seems like too much effort - it gets easier after you've put everything in place and used it for a while.
If nothing else, think of your home computer as if it's a web site: Most mainstream web sites ask you to log on with a username and password if you want to use the important parts of the site, don't they?
And, newer computers and operating systems often allow you to stay signed in to your normal, daily-use account while downloading software - by allowing a small pop-up window to appear with a place to type in your administrator password to authorize the download.
Either way - the benefits outweigh the pain.
Punch a time clock, by the way
The concept of signing in to a computer - administrator or otherwise - actually originates from the practice of punching a time-clock before beginning a day's work in a factory - a phrase coined by IBM workers during early computer development.
Computer sign-in procedures are extremely important for home computer security - as they are a form of authentication that limits access to your computer to you or trusted individuals.
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