If you use computers in your business or at home it is really important to know how to keep PCs and your data safe.
Of course, you could never use the internet, or never connect a USB drive to any of your PCs. But that’s not really practical for most businesses or homes. You need some basic guidelines to help keep you safe.
Now, if you heard me talk recently about keeping computers and data safe, you may be thinking “Hang on, doesn’t Ian only have 3 rules?” And you would be right. But I’ve added one. One that I thought was obvious, so, I assumed everyone was doing it. But I was wrong.
So here are my refreshed 4 Golden Rules for Keeping your PC and Data Safe.
1. Be sceptical
There’s no such thing a free lunch, or a free RV, or free software. Even if it says it’s free, it isn’t. If it says free you should immediately be suspicious. Especially if it’s an email or a text or a WhatsApp message. At best, your payment for the free thing will be giving them permission to send marketing messages to you. At worst, you will pay by unknowingly installing malware which harvests your banking details or encrypts your data and holds it to ransom.
You also need to be incredibly wary of emails that come with attachments, when you weren’t expecting them, even if they appear to have come from someone you know. If you weren’t expecting them to send you a file, give them a call to make sure.
And finally, you can pay a reputable company (like Computer Troubleshooters) to monitor your PCs for problems but no-one reputable is going to get in touch with you out-of-the-blue, to tell you that you have a computer problem. No-one, not Microsoft, not BT, not Talk Talk.
2. Keep updated
Whether it’s Windows or Mac, if it says it has an update, let it install it. Don’t keep putting it off. And please don’t turn off the updating service “because it’s annoying”. Having to occasionally accept an update and possibly reboot your PC is a lot less hassle than leaving your computers exposed to the latest ransomware attack. I know there are a lot of caveats to this especially in the corporate IT world, where a business-critical custom application could be broken by an operating system update. But for small businesses and home -based users, using standard, off-the-shelf applications, updating promptly is the best course of action.
(Yes – this is the new rule!)
3. Get Antivirus
Some form of antivirus is better than none. There are some commentators who claim that you don’t need antivirus today. You just have to follow my first two rules and all will be OK. That’s rubbish. The operating system patching process is not perfect, and neither are humans beings. Even those of us who were born sceptical, occasionally slip up, and open attachments they shouldn’t have.
This rule also applies to you Mac users. Some criminals are now directly targeting their malware at Macs. But even though there isn’t as much Mac malware yet, you don’t want to be that company that accidently forwards Windows malware to all their customers.
4. Backup your stuff
Your data is what helps you run your business effectively. Quotes, orders, invoices, expenses, marketing databases, marketing material and letters/emails all play a role in the smooth running of your business. At home, many of us have masses of data that has huge sentimental value, in digital photo collections. What would you be able to do if all your data was gone? How much time would you waste?
Rules 1 to 3 aim to minimise the chance that malicious software could wipe out your data. But it can still happen. Either something slips through the net, or you have a fire, a burglary or just a random hard drive failure.
If your data is regularly backed up, you can get back up and running in as short a time as possible. And by the way, it isn’t a full backup if it is on an external drive that lives next to your PC. That’s better than nothing, and will protect against many malware and hardware issues. But not the fire/flood/theft risk. At least take the hard drive offsite. Better yet use a cloud-based backup service as well.
So please remember: