Six Ways to Start Off Secure in '08

Nobody wants to court disaster. And yet, even power computer users often fall into the apathy trap, failing to take simple steps to secure their devices and networks. In this post, I’ll gather up six tips that can get you off to a good, secure start in 2008.

Get a USB Thumb Drive for Backups. Prices have fallen on USB thumb drives to the point where you can get lots of capacity for very little money. Unless you work with extremely large files, you can use one to back up your critical files with ease, and have access to them anywhere if you keep your drive on a keychain. I use a 4GB $150 drive from Ironkey that keeps my files encrypted. If my primary hard disk were to crash, I’d be back up and running in a flash. As a bonus, the Ironkey drive comes with virtual private network (VPN) software I can use to stay secure whenever I connect online from, say, a hotspot.

Use a VPN in Public. There are numerous, free, simple software applications you can use to create a virtual private network (VPN) from anywhere you’re connected. A VPN keeps your communications and data secure from hackers and other threats. I wrote about several good, free examples recently.

Use the “S” with GMail. Countless web workers rely on GMail as their primary e-mail engine. If you use the following URL when you go into GMail, you’ll ensure that your session is protected by SSL security—the most widely deployed security protocol there is:

Run and Regularly Update a Security Suite. Security suites now include most of the key software tools you need to run to stay safe from everything from malware to phishers. They’re also inexpensive. Yet even very sophisticated users often fail to keep their security software updated. Don’t fall into that trap. My favorite suite is Norton Internet Security 2008, from Symantec, which has gone through a bunch of performance updates. It’s under $60.

Be Sure Your Home Wi-Fi Network is Secure. Even if you’ve already set up security on your home Wi-Fi network, which many people haven’t, you should still check to make sure you are using the latest protocols. See our guide to Wi-Fi for security instructions. Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2) is what you should using, and if you’ve had your Wi-Fi network in place for a long time, you may be using WEP, which is proven to be inferior.

Clean Up and Tune Up Your Computer—Free. Why not start 2008 with a cleaned up hard drive, all malware removed, a pristine registry and a healthy computer? Here’s a post detailing how to get all this done quickly and at no cost.

Do you have any good tips on security?


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