Avoid These TEN Common Computing Mistakes

Category: Security

We prefer to blame hackers, cyber-criminals, and shoddy software, but the unpleasant truth is that most computer problems are caused by users. There are a few basic steps you can take to avoid malware infections, data loss, and performance issues. Too often, people try to save time or money by cutting corners, and they end up paying the price. Check out my list of common computing mistakes, and how to fix (or even better, avoid) them. Read on...

TEN Computing Mistakes to Avoid

Here are ten of the most common computing mistakes, and some tips on corrective action you can take today.

SECURITY: Failure to use anti-malware protection is like leaving your door open and your wallet on the table. Viruses, spyware, trojans, keyloggers, rootkits, ransomware and other cyber-attacks are ubiquitous, and they can enter a computer through many different channels. The damage that malware can do ranges from minor annoyance to data loss to identity theft. The latter can take years to remedy and cost thousands of dollars.

It's been shown that a computer left unprotected can be infected within minutes after going online! Protecting yourself against malware should be a high priority. There really is no excuse for not using an effective Internet security program. I have reviewed many of them here, and all are available in free versions.

Common Computing Mistakes

PASSWORDS: Is your online banking password "123456" or "abc123"? Do you use the same password for ALL of your online accounts? Weak or predictable passwords make it easy for hackers to plunder your bank account or hack your email. Below are some tips to help you create and manage strong, secure passwords. See also my advice on adding an "Extra Layer of Security" to your passwords, and a tool to find out of your online accounts have already been compromised.

OPERATING SYSTEM: Keeping Windows up to date is also a critical security chore. Hackers discover new vulnerabilities in the world's most popular operating system every month, and Microsoft issues critical security updates of Windows and other MS applications as fast they're fixed. The good news is that this free protection comes via the Automatic Updates feature, which Microsoft first implemented in the 2004 Windows XP Service Pack 2. If you have deliberately turned OFF automatic Windows updates, I strongly advise you to turn it back on.

SOFTWARE: Application software also needs to be kept up to date and secure. Many malware packages target vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Java, and other popular applications. Automatic updates are available for many applications, and they should be enabled so you can easily receive security updates. Manual checks for updates should be performed at least monthly if automatic updates are not available.

DOWNLOADS: When downloading and installing new software, you're often presented with an endless series of 'Next' or 'OK' buttons. You might be tempted to mindlessly click through them, just to get it over with. But that can lead to some nasty surprises. Here are some things to be aware of when downloading, and a nifty tool that makes the process simpler and safer...

WIRELESS: If you use any wireless devices at home (smartphone, tablet, e-reader, laptop) you need to make sure your wireless router is secured. Failure to do so can give unauthorized persons access to your files, or the ability to use your Internet connection for illegal purposes. You may even be legally liable if you don't lock down your router. If you use public wifi on a mobile device, there's another set of things you need to watch for.

BACKUPS: Backing up your data is probably the most neglected computing safety chore. And a backup can bail you out of so many problems, whether it be be hardware failure, a software glitch, a virus, or human error. The backup tools built into Windows 7, 8 and 10 will do an adequate job of backing up just your data or your entire hard drive. But there are better (even free) backup utilities and online storage services for your backups. Don't forget about the important stuff on your smartphone and tablet -- they need to be backed up too. And what about your online accounts -- Facebook, Twitter, and email? If you don't have a comprehensive plan to safely backup all your data, you need to start on that today.

CLICK HAPPY? Don't fall victim to "phishing" scams, which are attempts to trick you, by impersonating a person or institution you trust. These can come to you by email (sometimes with personal details gleaned through data breaches) or as popups while browsing the Web.

TECH SUPPORT SCAMS: On a related note, the tech support scam seems to be gaining momentum. If you receive an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or "Windows Support," just hang up. You may also see websites with warnings that your computer has a virus, urgently directing you to call a toll-free number. The goal of these scammers is to extract money from your wallet, and in some cases they will infect your computer by remote access.

RANSOMWARE: Ransomware is a fast-growing form of malware that encrypts your hard drive, locks you out, and demands payment for the key. But it's not a good idea to pay these cyber-scammers, as it will only encourage them to continue their criminal activities. In many cases, you can unlock your files without paying the ransom. Even better, if you have a full backup, you can restore and be back to good in minutes.

The biggest mistake most users make is assuming that the worst will never happen to them. Paying attention to these essential tasks can prevent a myriad of privacy, security and computer problems. Follow the links above and learn how to protect yourself from viruses, identity theft, data loss and sluggish performance. Have you made any of these mistakes? Can you think of other common computing mistakes?

Please share this article with family, friends, and feel free to post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Avoid These TEN Common Computing Mistakes"

Posted by:

18 Jul 2019

can you say PEBKAC?

Posted by:

Henry Bruce
18 Jul 2019

Very good points, Bob. Thanks as always. One question: As you've stated, Windows Defender has improved over the years and is now considered a viable security package. Adding a commercially-available A/V program for "added security" sounds like a good idea, but adding an "outside" Anti-Virus causes Windows Defender to turn itself off. Except for MalewareBytes. So it appears that using MWB and allowing WinDef to remain active is the best choice for complete security; Your thoughts? Thanks as always. Canny Bloke

EDITOR'S NOTE:As far as I know, it's still okay to run MalwareBytes (MBAM) with another real-time anti-virus protection program.

Posted by:

18 Jul 2019

Under "OPERATING SYSTEM", only Windows is mentioned. There are many operating systems and some focus more on security than others. And some other operating systems are bigger targets to the hackers than others. A fair analysis of "OPERATING SYSTEM" would address the other OSs and identify the targeted OSs and the OSs that put more emphasis on security.

Posted by:

18 Jul 2019

Im still using Win7 but concerning auto update with Win 10, what with all the issues with new updates causing crashes, deletions, inaccessability, etc it would seem to make more sense to let SOMEONE ELSE beta the update before you install it. Too many people reporting problems with MS updates for me to be a guinea pig err beta tester for them (if I had Win10 that is).

Posted by:

Ken Smet
18 Jul 2019

Ditto what Henry Bruce said and is asking...about using the combination of Windows Defender with Malware-Bytes... Please, thank you.

Posted by:

David Whittaker
18 Jul 2019

Wow! There are about FIFTEEN ads on this page alone! That is almost as bad as the infamous 'slideshow' pages. I know we all have to make a living, but is it necessary to have so many?

Posted by:

18 Jul 2019

Len: Remember, you hear about the failures out of millions of users that don't have any problems. Many times, the issues are from people who have a lot of special circumstances.

Posted by:

John T
18 Jul 2019

I too have a WIFI router inline after my modem. I have some devices directly connected but do also utilize the WIFI. I created a very long and specific password for my router, as well, my guest access is pass-worded too. I upgraded from Win 7 to Win 10 about a year after the first release. I have not noticed all the issues so many talk about! I wonder if it mostly has to do with the operators!

Posted by:

John Wood
18 Jul 2019

Great article, wonderful information as usual. Thank you for steering the Tourbus for over 20 years now.

Posted by:

18 Jul 2019

Awesome advice. Keep up the great work, Bob :-)

Posted by:

19 Jul 2019

Thank you for the excellent advice and reminders! You are performing a great service!

Posted by:

19 Jul 2019

Bob, great article and I know that I need the review to remember things, especially the "tips." I hope that many of your readers take advantaged of your suggestions. I know that I have used many, many of your suggestions and tips. Plus, I have used many of your suggested apps and programs.

Today, I still use Wi-Fi Guard, CCleaner, Malwarebytes, Unchecky, Last Pass, RoboForm and so many others I can't think of, some that I used many years ago while I had an AT Motherboard along with earlier versions of Windows. Behind most of my using new apps or programs has been Bob Rankin. Once in a while, I find one or another by myself.

I do know one thing. I trust Bob and know that I can share what he has said or suggested without any worries. The man is a complete fount of information.

Posted by:

20 Jul 2019

David Whittaker above says there are a lot of ads on this page. I've seen these comments (complaints) before from others.
Yet, I rarely see any ads at all. There were none (for me) on this page.
I'm wondering what is different. I'm just an average user with no real special knowledge.
I'm using Firefox as my browser and have pop-up ads blocked. That might be the magic solution, but I'm not smart enough to know.
Just thought I'd share.

Posted by:

24 Jul 2019

I have heard it said - and I agree - the commonest virus or malware is the one that sits between the keyboard and the chair....

Posted by:

12 Aug 2019

As with Dano, I also don't have any pop-ups/ads, but then again I'm actively using uBlock Origin in Chrome. For those who are having ad issues, I recommend using this add-in. (No affiliation, I just think it does what it claims to do and does it well). Love the page, Bob, BTW. :)

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