Avoid These TEN Common Computing Mistakes
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.
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.
- HOW TO FIX IT: See Is Your Password Strong Enough?
- HOW TO FIX IT: See The Best Password Managers
- HOW TO FIX IT: See An Extra Layer of Security
- HOW TO FIX IT: See Have You Been Pwned?
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.
- HOW TO FIX IT: See Microsoft Windows Update Website
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.
- HOW TO FIX IT: See Keeping Software Updated Simply
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...
- HOW TO FIX IT: See Downloading? Watch Out For These Danger Signs
- HOW TO FIX IT: See Finally: The End of Next, Next, Next...
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.
- HOW TO FIX IT: See Wireless Network Security Checklist
- HOW TO FIX IT: See Danger Zone: Free Wifi Hotspots
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.
- HOW TO FIX IT: See Are You Prepared For a Data Disaster?
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.
- HOW TO RECOGNIZE IT: See Would You Click on This?
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.
- HOW TO RECOGNIZE IT: See Beware Fake Tech Support Scammers
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.
- HOW TO PREVENT IT: See Ransomware: Are You at Risk?
- HOW TO FIX IT: See Everything You Need to Know About Backups
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?
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This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 18 Jul 2019
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Avoid These TEN Common Computing Mistakes (Posted: 18 Jul 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved