Toni Dowdy, Account Manager

Computer security is ever-changing and ever-growing in complexity. Each and every day we see more threats and vulnerabilities emerging from many different origins. One of the challenges that financial institutions constantly face is how to help keep your own customers safe when it comes to technology. Although it may be unreasonable to assume that all customers/end users are going to be security experts, we can definitely impart upon them some best practices to ensure their own personal computing security. We can also teach them how to notice when things look suspicious.

Here is a list of some simple suggestions to boost security on personal computers:

10 Tips for End Users to Enhance Security

  1. Make sure that all the latest Windows updates are installed on your computer as soon as they become available via Windows updates. Also ensure that other third party applications such as all Adobe software, Java, and Quicktime are continuously updated. Most of these programs have the functionality to periodically check for updates and will let you know when one becomes available.
  2. Make certain that there is some form of UP-TO-DATE antivirus program installed on your computer. There are a number of acceptable programs out there such as Kaspersky, AVG, Norton, Avast, and Webroot SecureAnywhere (just to name a few). A number of these have free-for-home-use versions, so there should be no excuse not to have AV!
  3. Do not click on links, open attachments, or respond to any unsolicited emails from email addresses that you are not familiar with. The best course of action if you come across an email from a stranger is to delete the email altogether.
  4. Beware of any messages/boxes that suddenly pop up and claim that your computer is infected or that offers software to scan and fix an issue that has been discovered. This is more often than not malicious software! Make sure you know the exact name of the AV software that is installed on your computer, because any pop up window from your installed AV will have the name of that software in the title bar of any notifications. For example, if you know that you have AVG software installed and the pop up says it comes from “Antivirus 2012” then that should be a clue that it is malicious software.
  5. If you think that you may have a malware infection, there are a number of programs that you can use to help clean this up, such as Malwarebytes and Norman Malware Cleaner (both which are FREE!). Note that these should not be used as a substitute for running normal proactive antivirus protection, but rather as a reactive tool to handle systems that are already infected.
  6. Use strong passwords for all accounts. Consider using a password that has both upper and lowercase letters and numbers and symbols, or even better, consider using a passphrase, such as “I’mSooExcitedAboutSecurity!” Also, steer away from using the names of spouses or children, or common words found in the dictionary. Lastly, when possible, do not use the same password for multiple sites, applications, programs, etc.
  7. Enable the Windows firewall on your computer. This feature is included in Windows Service Pack 2 and later. You can also consider a hardware firewall.
  8. Consider encrypting sensitive folders, and make regular backups of important files, either via the Windows Backup tool or any other backup software.
  9. Do not use public wi-fi connections to access accounts or personal information.
  10. Consider using a dedicated computer for online banking and payments.

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