Eternal Vigilance and Essential Security Tips
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.
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 29 Nov 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Eternal Vigilance and Essential Security Tips (Posted: 29 Nov 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved