Eternal Vigilance and Essential Security Tips

Category: Security

The famous quote “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but there's no evidence that he ever spoke or penned those words. The story behind that quote is actually quite interesting. Read on for the details on that, oh, and some security tips you may not have learned about elsewhere...

Have You Implemented These Security Tips?

Eternal vigilance is hard. So is the discipline required to make regular backups of data and to keep application software up to date. Windows 10 updates itself without user intervention, but there are several other easy ways to increase security significantly. There’s really no excuse for not doing these simple things:

First, if you have Windows 10, enable Windows Defender. Yes, even if you have third-party security software. Some users rely entirely on Defender, while others use it as a backup to third-party security software. Defender discreetly turns itself off when it detects active third-party security software, and wakes up if such software stops running. Windows 10 warns you if no third-party security software is running and Defender is disabled; a red checkmark appears in the shield icon on the Taskbar.

(If you're still running Windows 7, the built-in security is provided by Microsoft Security Essentials. I strongly advise that you install a third-party alternative. See my article "Has Microsoft Security Essentials Improved?" for the reasons why I called in an Epic Fail.)

A few months ago, I ditched Avast Antivirus and started using PC Matic's SuperShield. As I described in my PC Matic review, SuperShield uses a whitelist approach that only allows known-good programs to run on your computer. This is in contrast to other security tools that rely on blacklists of known malware. So far, it's caught several things that slipped past Avast.

Eternal Vigilance and Internet Security Tips

All of the major browsers now auto-update themselves. So do third-party add-ons or extensions. But we tend to collect far more add-ons than we actually use regularly, and that creates a larger attack surface area. Go through your browser’s collection of extensions or add-ons now and then, removing those you don’t use very often or really don’t need.

Here's something about Windows 10 that I was surprised to learn this week. Windows 10 now gives you finer control of app permissions, much like you can do on a smartphone. Type “privacy” in the Search box and open Privacy Settings from the results. The General tab lets you toggle broad categories of app permissions. The options on the left side of the screen (Location, Camera, etc.) provide finer control over specific app permissions.

The phrase “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” has an interesting history. The first usage is lost to history, but abolitionist Wendell Phillips used it in an 1852 speech that seems to speak directly to the world of today. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten... The hand entrusted with power becomes, either from human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people.” You can read more about this famous quote at This Day in Quotes.

A user account password or PIN is essential even if you live alone and your computer never leaves your home. Thieves may steal it, or inquisitive guests may get into it. A Windows user password/PIN is even more necessary these days because many of us allow our browsers to automatically log us in to banking, social media, and other sensitive sites. Go to the Accounts area of Windows to set up a user account password/PIN.

Your Browser and Internet Security

Let Chrome choose strong passwords for you. When you create a new account or a new password for an existing account, the latest version of Chrome asks if you want it to suggest a strong password. If you say yes, you will be offered a string of hard-to-crack gibberish full of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. Select it and Chrome makes it your password for the account in question; it also saves the password if you have that option enabled in Settings. Saved passwords are now stored at passwords.google.com where you can access them from any device. If you don't trust Google to securely store your passwords, there's a sale this week on sticky notes at Office Depot.

Another Chrome security feature eliminates malware, junkware, and bloatware that may impair Chrome’s performance, including the performance of its built-in defenses. The “Check for harmful software on your computer” option dates back to October, 2017, but many users are unaware of it because it’s buried in Advanced Settings. Just type or copy-paste this URL into Chrome’s Omnibox: chrome://settings/cleanup to fetch the Cleanup page and click the blue button. The scanning process will take several minutes. If potentially harmful software is found you will get the option to keep or remove each application. Note that Cleanup is designed for Chrome alone; it is not a replacement for full-system antimalware software.

Security is a multi-faceted discipline. Take advantage of the simple security features built into Windows and your browser, and your chances of staying safe online will be increased. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 29 Nov 2018


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Most recent comments on "Eternal Vigilance and Essential Security Tips"

(See all 22 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Wendyl
29 Nov 2018

I've run the "Check for harmful software" twice and each time get this error message, "Search failed: An error occurred while Chrome was searching for harmful software."

Anyone have any thoughts as to why the search is failing? Thanks!


Posted by:

Ray Dennis
29 Nov 2018

One of the best and useful articles I have yet seen.

Thanks Bob!


Posted by:

Steven Latus
29 Nov 2018

Wendyl, I got the same message that you did. It also took about 20 minutes to get the message.


Posted by:

Lucy
29 Nov 2018

To "Rocky Balboa"

We use throwaway email addresses, a different one for all business relationships, and if we find that relationship has soured and or we cannot get unsubscribed from a mailing it is a simple click of the mouse to delete the throwaway address that was made for that particular entity.

As far as I know throwaway addresses are widely available with ISP's.


Posted by:

Lucy
29 Nov 2018

BOB ....
have you changed your advice about letting browsers save your passwords, or is it just Google Chrome you make the recommendation for and now trust?


Posted by:

RandiO
29 Nov 2018

I am just not able to wrap my head around your comment about "If you don't trust Google to securely store your passwords, there's a sale this week on sticky notes at Office Depot."
Benefit of the doubt goes to the comment made in jest (even if lacking the obligatory exclamation point).
Otherwise, this comment is right up there with the phrase "you're either with us, or against us"...


Posted by:

wts
29 Nov 2018

@Rocky,
I had the same problem with IDrive "Scheduled backup email notification" emails after I canceled. IDrive tech support suggested I uninstall their program completely from my machine, which I did with Revo Uninstall. They were right - those emails stopped.


Posted by:

sirpaul2
29 Nov 2018

@Wendyl, @Steven - You'll need to check the settings (and possibly clean) three sections of Chrome: the 'New Tab' settings (under 'Appearance'), the 'Default' and 'Other' search engines (under 'Manage search engines'), and the 'On start-up' (start) page.
Ironically, you can google how to do those.


Posted by:

Gary
29 Nov 2018

I have used PC Matic evergreen since day one and have no issues! (I have several Winxp and Win7 machines) This kind of reminds me of a lot of Amazon reviews - 50% love a product and 50% hate it! LOL


Posted by:

Butch
29 Nov 2018

Rocky Balboa, you're not the only one who had issues with IDrive. "Regular" backups "occurred" but no backup was actually performed. I assumed IDrive was backing up my files as it whirred. When I had to re-install my Windows OS in early 2018, I was shattered to discover that my IDrive files stopped in mid-September **2017**. Thankfully, my other b/u device was "right there for me." Boo on IDrive.


Posted by:

Dan C
29 Nov 2018

I too had a difficult time with iDrive and was appalled to learn that what I thought had been backed up hadn't been. One of the most disappointing purchases ever.


Posted by:

Mike
29 Nov 2018

Bob, I tried turning on "periodic scanning" with Windows Defender, and Norton popped up a warning to turn it off. When did your recommendation to not use more than one virus scanner change?


Posted by:

Bill Pfeifer
29 Nov 2018

Just waiting for the headline:
"passwords.google.com has been hacked!"


Posted by:

Bob K
30 Nov 2018

Rocky,
I've had a less than stellar experience with both,
I-drive and PC Matic as well.


Posted by:

MartinW
30 Nov 2018

I tried chrome://settings/cleanup on the Chrome browser on my Chromebook. (It needs help.) Nothing. Searching in Advanced Settings got No Result. I finally found, in Chrome Help, an article on Chrome Cleanup Tool. Right after the name, it said Windows only. So...


Posted by:

Tony Nobaloney
30 Nov 2018

It seems PC Matic Scamware pays more for advertising.


Posted by:

miger
30 Nov 2018

When a person tells us that they use PC Matic on all their XP and Win 7 machines, I do not consider that a sparkling endorsement.


Posted by:

Steven Latus
30 Nov 2018

"@Wendyl, @Steven - You'll need to check the settings (and possibly clean) three sections of Chrome: the 'New Tab' settings (under 'Appearance'), the 'Default' and 'Other' search engines (under 'Manage search engines'), and the 'On start-up' (start) page.
Ironically, you can google how to do those."

Sirpaul2: I'm not sure what you mean by "cleaning these sections" (maybe "use default settings"?), but I checked my settings and here they are:

1. Under Appearance, Show Home Button is checked and is set to Google News

2. Default Search Engine is set to DuckDuckGo

3. On Startup is set to "Continue where you left off"

Are you saying that these custom settings are preventing the "Find Harmful Software" process?


Posted by:

Saffron
30 Nov 2018

We bought a refurbished laptop with Windows 10. The user password (to open windows) is preset by the company that refurbished it. I don't know how to change that. You said: "Go to the Accounts area of Windows to set up a user account password/PIN" I just can't seem to find things on 10 like I could on 7. Help?


Posted by:

Alex S
02 Dec 2018

Thank you for the useful information!


There's more reader feedback... See all 22 comments for this article.

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