Security Basics 101: Home & Business Computer Security

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What is Computer Security?

Computer security or cybersecurity is simply the protection of computer systems and their data from threats such as malware or hacking.

Is Security Important?

In 2011, 83% of Australian households had access to a computer1 and 91% of all businesses were on the internet2. As a result, protecting our computer systems and their data is becoming increasingly important.

Have you ever been effected by a virus? It’s estimated that two thirds of computer users have been a victim of malware3 and 60% of organisations have detected a security breach in the last 5 years4. It’s not just big business either, In 2011, 72% of breaches were organisations with 100 or fewer employees5.

A security breach such as a virus, can be tricky to detect. Individuals may notice their computer slowdown or display unwanted pop-ups on the screen. These are usually side-effects of the malware’s intended purpose such as sending spam email or stealing personal information. Identity theft and other cybercrime is estimated to cost the globe $400 billion per year6.

What Can I Do?

Update your Software. Keep your computer and devices up to date with the latest patches and fixes. Often these updates will increase security by fixing mistakes made in the software’s code.

Backup Regularly. It is always important to have an up to date backup. Some malware, such as ‘CryptoLocker’ will encrypt your files for monetary ransom.

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Use an Antivirus Application. Antivirus applications are not 100% effective at blocking threats but they do add a valuable layer of protection. Paid applications are not always better than free alternatives.

Use Strong, Unique Passwords. Use a different password for each website or application you log in to. A good way to remember multiple passwords is to apply a password rule to the website’s name10. When choosing a password, complexity matters. For instance, a 6 character password takes 10 minutes to ‘crack’ but a 9 character password takes 44,530 years7. You should periodically check your devices to ensure they have a unique password set and are not using default settings.

Delete Unknown Emails. Emails can contain malicious attachments or links. If you receive an unsolicited email, it’s safest to delete it before opening.

Keep Social Media Private. Check your privacy settings online and do not accept friend requests from unknown people. Fake accounts can send you spam and steal personal information.

Use Encryption. Before entering any personal information into a website, check that it is secure and uses encryption. You can tell if your website is secure by looking for a lock icon in your browser. Turn on encryption on your portable devices, this will ensure your data is secure if your phone or laptop is lost or stolen.

Separate Your Administrator Account. Use your computer as a standard user or one without access to modify the system. This is known as the least privilege model8 and can prevent malicious changes in the event of an attack.

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Am I Doing it Right?

The healthcare4 approach can be an effective way to prevent, detect and fix security issues:

Prevention – Utilise defenses such as antivirus and firewalls
Detection – Monitor system health regularly to be alerted of any issues early
Remediation – If a threat is detected, resolve the issue as quickly as possible

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Organisations should consider utilising advanced security features such as mobile device management and data loss prevention.

Mobile device management solutions secure portable devices, prevent malware and can remotely wipe a device if it is lost or stolen.

Data loss prevention software can automatically monitor, block and report unauthorised disclosure of intellectual property before it occurs.

You should review your security strategy with an expert to ensure your systems are secure and that you can effectively respond to an incident if it were to occur.

What Next?

Share this document with your friends, family and colleagues. By spreading the word, you could prevent someone from becoming a victim of cybercrime.

If you have any questions or need help with your security strategy, feel free to contact us for a tailored, yet cost-effective solution.

Sources

1 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/4E4D83E02F39FC32CA25796600152BF4?opendocument
2 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/1301.0~2012~Main%20Features~Use%20of%20information%20technology~174
3 http://now-static.norton.com/now/en/pu/images/Promotions/2012/cybercrimeReport/2012_Norton_Cybercrime_Report_Master_FINAL_050912.pdf
4 http://www.telstra.com.au/business-enterprise/download/document/telstra-cyber-security-report-2014.pdf
5 http://www.verizonenterprise.com/resources/reports/rp_data-breach-investigations-report-2012-ebk_en_xg.pdf
6 http://www.mcafee.com/us/resources/reports/rp-economic-impact-cybercrime2.pdf
7 http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/magazine/content/11_06/b4214036460585.htm
8 https://buildsecurityin.us-cert.gov/articles/knowledge/principles/least-privilege

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