Personal Computer Safety and Security is probably the one of the most intensive and complex subject that correlates with the mission of Security Grade. Since we try to identify the most convenient avenues for public threats to harm Americans this subject is particularly important because it allows for so many of these threats to flood into your home.

As with many subjects, we can’t go into great depth of every category that PC’s (Personal Computer) are vulnerable to for the sake of our users reading hundreds of pages of material, so this document will discuss briefly some of the most imminent threats to PC’s to date. Security Grade is always preaching about mindset and awareness. The same ideology will be re-iterated with the subjects of concern with relation to PC safety and security.

If you kept all of your PII (Personally Identifying Information), bank records, private pictures and/or videos, important work information, tax records, important scanned records such as your social security card, drivers license, passport etc… all in one spot, wouldn’t you want to keep that spot secured? Losing all of that information could have a horrible impact on your life, your family and others. It could be far worse than losing something like your wallet or your keys. Statistics have shown that most American households have all of this important information in one spot. Yes, your PC….

Passwords
Keep your computer password protected. Have your computer prompt you for a password even when you simply let it hibernate or go into sleep-mode and especially when you are booting up your computer. Think if someone broke into your home and stole your PC. It would be all too easy to obtain some of the most critical information about your life from within your computer if it doesn’t even for a password. You could also think of this as if you were to have all of this information on paper and kept it in a safe, what good would the safe be if it didn’t require a key or pass code? Ensure that you or only trusted people have the password to your PC since this code is essentially the golden key to your most precious info. Consider changing the password when-ever necessary.

Unfortunately our research shows that most individuals use the same password for all or most anything that requires a password. The reason is obvious, “because we don’t want to memorize or forget other passwords for other things.” This is a lame excuse and individuals who want to cause harm to you will take advantage of this excuse. For example an individual who happens to see you type in your username and password for your email account and then tries to gain access to your bank account, email account etc. Even changing your password by 1 letter or 1 number for different accounts is now not as effective since Hackers now use software that attempts to use your username and password on your various accounts that can manipulate and change your username and password until it chooses the correct one, then gains access to your account. You might be thinking, “How would they know who I bank with?” Hackers have found clever ways to quickly try the most prominate financial institutions within your area to figure out which one you have an account with.

External Devices
Flash drives (thumb drives), external hard drives and other related informational storage devices can be a great convenience, however without proper management of these storage devices, this convenience can turn into an inconvenient nightmare. Consider purchasing an encrypted external hard-drive (if owning one at all is important for you) to store information, especially if you regularly back-up stored info from your PC. Stealing this device and using the info on it against you can be even easier than stealing your PC and trying to obtain the info from it.

Encrypted flash drives can be a little on the pricey side to the average American so it is somewhat un-realistic to suggest in purchasing several of them to replace your existing and they can be tricky to use in coordination with your current anti-virus software and trying to access that info on public computers (i.e. a Kinko’s computer for the sake of making copies) but the technology is getting better and less costly. If you constantly transition information that can be detrimental to your life, if in the wrong hands, to a flash, it is recommended in purchasing an encrypted one, more specifically one that when given the in-correct password so many times, the device will delete the information on it and become useless. Losing a flash drive with info on it that can harm a person can have the same negative effects as losing your computer or hard drive.

Anti-virus software, mal-ware, spy-ware
It’s necessary to have good anti-virus software on your computer. You can download various different forms of this software on several safe-sites. Security Grade stresses Safe-Sites because there are several sites as well as several different forms of software that are very malicious and will in-fact infect your computer rather than cure and protect it. Check reviews and accreditations for various safe-sites and safe software for download. When you have good software, make use of the settings to ensure that scheduled scan are done to ensure a health and virus-free computer. Also try to download anti-virus software that will screen internet sites as you surf the web.

Mal-ware is literally malicious software that will infect your computer similar to a virus, however it is software that can carry virus’s, adware, spyware and worms to name a few. Mal-ware can also get worse as time progresses while it’s on your PC and can eventually render it useless.

Spy-ware is another form of mal-ware that can infect your PC and slowly or quickly start retaining various forms of information on your PC and relay it to another computer or website to monitor your computer habits, typically your web browsing habits. Detection of this type of software can be difficult even with anti-spyware software and can, in time, reap havoc on your browser.

Good Anti-virus protection is very essential in reducing your risk of infection from malicious software and can delete current threats or infections that you may not know exist on your PC.

             Must knows about Anti-virus software and your Computer (PC) Anti-virus software is not 100% effective; your computer is never completely safe from threats. Be sure to constantly update your anti-virus software. Your system will usually do this on its own, however it may ask permission from you to do so. Don’t consider that constant nagging request an annoyance; it is very necessary for your computer to be aware of the latest threats through your anti-virus software provider. You could think of this as keeping your immune system up to speed with the latest germs that can be harmful to you. Just like your immune system and the human body overall, your computer is never completely safe from outside threats no more than a human is completely safe from catching a common cold. The best defense is preventative maintenance i.e. knowing how to avoid a cold and what to do when you catch one. We all want to get over a cold as quickly as possible by staying hydrated, eating healthy foods and getting plenty of rest. Your computer needs similar defenses to get over any threats it has been exposed to by having good anti-virus software, keeping the software updated and the user knowing how to avoid situations that could infect the computer.

Preventative Maintenance and Good Habits

•  Always have all of your data backed up, especially any and all personally identifying information, scanned life documents (passports, social security cards etc.) and/or financial information.

•  Ensure your firewall is functioning properly and is enabled.

•  Keep all of your anti-virus software updated.

•  Remember to lock your computer when not in use (as stated above, ensure your computer prompts for a password anytime it is turned on or woken up from hibernation or sleep mode.

Browsing (Safe-browsers)
Even the software that is your internet browser isn’t safe from threats on the internet, but there are some great browsers that have great reviews and the writer’s of the software pride themselves on the safety of the software itself and how can steer and deter you away from harmful sites and downloads on the internet today. A great example of a safe browser is Google Chrome. Google Chrome is free to download and has been reviewed as one of the safer browsers to surf the net with. Although MySafetyZone will not point fingers at bad or inefficient browsers, there are many out-dated and potentially harmfully browsers on many American PC’s today that are allowing for infectious entities to download onto PC’s. Consider a well reviewed browser for your computer for a safer internet surfing experience that will help to prevent future disasters.

Security settings, firewalls and backing up information
We strongly recommend using the security settings on your PC. Ensure that a firewall is efficient and up. Back-up info when necessary, some PC’s depending on your system will allow you to set a scheduled time when all info is backed up. Remember whenever backing up to send the info to a secure drive.

Users and Miscellaneous
Consider your most frequently used user log-in to be different than the administrative user on your computer, especially when allowing your children to use your PC and/or surf the web. This can add to the safety and security of your PC by taking this option in coordination with strict security settings on your PC anyone accessing as a guest or even other users whom you don’t want to give access to pertinent information to can be locked out of the administrative user of your PC which can prevent you from malicious downloads and/or obtain confidential information that you may store in files only under the administrative user.

For complaints about serious issues concerning internet safety and crime, refer to a trusted government website called IC3.gov to file a report that will get to the proper authorities. Security Grade does not recommend this site over its user’s best judgment when determining whether or not to notify local, state, or federal authorities directly about criminal issues you have or may have fallen victim to.

Exercise a safe and secure mindset with PC safety. With a compilation of general knowledge and further advice given to our users you can have an even more effect, safe, secure and entertaining web browsing and PC use and experience than ever before. Always check back with Security Grade for the latest updates on threats, how to combat and avoid them in addition to asking us any questions or possible consultation with us.