Well ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we’ve made it into Time Out New York. Again. For the second time in as many years. How you like them apples, Tekserve? Looks like we’re quickly becoming a New York institution, and it’s about time, too.
It looks like after 10 years of slugging it out, we’re finally making it to the big time. And again it’s for our convenience. And if anyone should know about convenience, it’s writers. Trust me, I’ve been in the trenches. We’re some of the most hassle-averse people in the world. So if a writer tells you something is convenient, you bet it’s convenient.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we’re the only shop in the city that promises same-day service on most repairs and stays open until 9pm. And we do deliveries and pickups, did I mention that yet?
So what’s the next step? What’s next on LaptopMD+s quest for world domination? Maybe the New York Times (wink wink to any NYT reporters that stop in or read this). Then, we march off to conquer!
We’ve talked a little about security in this blog, since it’s an essential part of owning a computer. From running the right antivirus software to making sure you don’t reuse passwords, there are a number of things you can do to keep yourself at least somewhat safe (never mind that something like 50% of computers imported to the US from China come pre-packaged with malware. Remember to always wipe and do a clean windows install on new machines). But what do you do if the worst-case scenario happens? How do you protect your laptop if it gets lost or stolen?
Recently I talked about basic digital security tips and how to survive when your mobile world is, well, not mobile but we left an important element out of these posts: how to protect your WiFi signal (and your computer) from malicious intent.
Many people traditionally focus on router based security – securing the router that distributes the WiFi signal – but this post will quickly highlight what you can do on your end, as a computer user, to protect yourself.
WiFi protection software essentially amounts to an added, yet specialized, firewall on your computer that is targeted to ward off malicious threats and thwart snoopers. As mentioned in a recent post, LaptopMD recommends the Kaspersky and PC Tools anti-virus/firewall products but a standalone program you might consider solely for WiFi protection is HotSpot Shield which forces website encryption (when available), masks your IP address to snoopers limiting access to your machine, and protects your computers from all possible snoopers (whether you’re at an airport, hotel, or in your own backyard) among other features.
As cautioned before: digital protection online starts when you think proactively and while programs are necessarily needed they help share the load when it comes to protection online.
When you or I send something to the cloud, where does it go? Do you know? Does anyone know? Questions like these have been cropping up left and right, and with companies from Apple to Microsoft moving to the cloud, they are bound to get more common. As with most new technologies, the media has done a great job trying to scare people without providing very many explanations, and with all the recent news of large companies getting hacked, there must be something to their claims that the cloud is a big, scary, unsecured place, right? Well, about that…
When talking about basic digital security tips and protecting yourself online, I would be remiss to not pass on wisdom on how to properly choose and maintain an anti-virus program. Many customers of ours bring their laptops or computers in for repair because of problems resulting from the anti-virus/security settings on their computer – whether an anti-virus program is improperly installed or is not installed at all.
Here are some tips I’ve shared with customers in the past on how to choose the right anti-virus software, set it up, and maintain it over time:
Download a trial version
Utilize the available versions and try out several programs before you actually buy the software. There are a multitude of programs out there and each will bring their own unique flavor of security protection. Trial software allows you to experience and test out the actual program without incurring the hefty prices. Try different security packages, from different developers, and find out which one suits you best and works best on your computer.
Be aware of ‘weighty’ software
During the trial period watch and see how the anti-virus software affects your computer’s performance. Note peculiarities such as speed, responsiveness, and unexpected computer freezes. These problems can be symptomatic of ‘bloatware’ which unnecessarily slows your computer down. Anti-virus software (especially the Norton Security Suite) can slow computers down so you will want to find the right software that fits your digital habits/needs.
Buy as a Suite of Products, Not as a Single Piece of Software
Most antivirus/firewall programs are available as a suite of products even though you can buy the standalone copies by themselves. Contrary to popular belief, you will get a better deal (and more protection) when you focus on a suite of security products rather than individual programs. Software purchased in suites, especially internet security software allows you to get more features for less money.
Leverage the Available Bulk Licenses
Most internet security software suites come with multiple licenses allowing you to install the program on multiple machines. Take advantage of these bulk licenses and install the security software on all of the computers in your home, such as your spouse’s laptop, the kids’ computer, etc. Protecting your entire home network is an integral part to mastering digital security.
Get the Physical Software Disks
Some programs allow you to download the application but be sure to buy the actual software so you have the disks if the computer crashes. This makes computer recovery much easier for you and the repair engineers working on your computer. You never know when you’ll need the actual disks and you don’t want to get caught with a missing login/password or without an internet connection like we’ve happen to customers in the past.
Run/Schedule Software Updates Regularly
When you install the program, make sure you activate and schedule the automatic updates and regularly check to make sure your program is up to date, especially if something feels out of place. Anti-virus developers release several dozen patches a year that you need to be protected from. Hackers will never stop so make sure you are applying updates to the anti-virus/firewall program as they become available.
So which anti-virus/firewall packages does LaptopMD like best and recommend?
We prefer and recommend Kaspersky Anti-Virus and PC Tools to our customers. Both companies offer lightweight but full-featured software suites that we’ve seen perform well on our own computers as well as those of customers.
Share your thoughts in the comments and ask us what is still on your mind about anti-virus software.
We’ve all heard a lot about digital security these past few years and it always gets to me that “digital security” has remained a buzzword – often used to spread fear and panic as well as appeal to the masses as a means to sell new security products, etc. Digital security can be boiled down into some basic principles and practices that you can do on your own (some software may be needed in certain cases but most can be done on your own). These are basic principles but in my experience adhering to the basics will prevent major problems from occurring.
You are the first line of defense.
No computer program, algorithm, or machine has the complete ability, as least yet (!), to match the intellect of a human being in terms of digital security. Yes, these programs can protect us much better than we can – in a lot of ways – but having an alert mind on our shoulders will make a world of defense in protecting yourself. When you’re online remain alert and vigilant to online threats – operating with the mentality that “the internet can do no harm” is on the verge of living a fantasy. Don’t go overboard but trust and use your natural intuition about websites, links, and attachments as you protect yourself online.
When online, be aware of red flags and recognize when things seem out of place or odd.
I have recently been receiving a lot of spam from hotmail accounts (which seems to be a favorite target of hackers these days) and the spam I am receiving is incredibly deceptive. Spammers are now adding prefixes such as “RE:” and “FW:” to email subjects to entice individuals to open messages. This is an example of a red flag you should be aware of – if a message seems out of place (like a “reply” to a message you didn’t send) chances are the email is spam. Another spam favorite is the giveaway of electronic devices – now, I don’t want to seem like I’m a pessimist but if something sounds too good to be true there is a higher chance that it probably is. I always suggest to users that they tread lightly with the “out of this world” type of promotions and have heightened senses when pursuing these types of links/sites.
Password protection is critical.
I’ve walked into many offices where passwords have been left on sticky notes underneath the keyboard because they are hard for people to remember. Granted, techies (like myself) are often guilty of making password requirements too complex but I always discourage the use of sticky notes near the computer simply because it allows very easy access to sensitive login information. Here are some tips for protecting your password that will save you the trouble of being hacked or having your accounts improperly accessed:
Make your password case is sensitive with mixed characters and letters – stay away from common English words and phrases
Commit to memorizing your password or store your passwords in a concealed place (and not under “P” for passwords either)
Change your personal passwords every 6 to 12 months or whenever you feel your digital space may have been compromised
Use a secure password management tool that integrates with your browser and websites/multiple passwords
Install an anti-virus program.
I keep saying this and it still amazes me how many people don’t have an anti-virus program on their computer. Everyone, including Mac users, should have an anti-virus program or internet security suite installed on their computer. If you’re worried about the cost of a program, I recommend the free version of AVG anti-virus or download one of the many trial versions of the security suites out there, like PC Tools or Kaspersky Anti-Virus. But trust me, the money for such programs is worth the investment!
I realize these things may seem like common sense but, with digital security, the common sense/trivial matters do make the difference between a big computer nightmare and digital bliss!
Share with me in the comments the tips and tricks that you use online to protect yourself.
Here are a few quick tips to help you overcome the weakest Wi-Fi signal in the most digitally barren environment:
Invest in a Wi-Fi hotspot from your cell phone provider: If you know you’re going to need an internet signal and you’re going to be on the road, having one of those nifty Wi-Fi hotspots will help you immensely. If you want to travel light, look into tethering your iPhone or Android to your computer. It will probably cost you a bit extra but be well worth the convenience in money, size, and reduced anxiety.
Have a backup plan: The cloud is the future but right now things are still touch and go, especially with limited internet connections in some parts of the country. Have a backup plan:
Make sure to have a solid set of offline tools so that you can still work when you’re disconnected, and keep local copies of anything business-critical (your schedule, for example).
Investing yourself fully in the cloud, at this point, is not a wise idea if you plan on being away from a steady internet connection and you need access. Rest assured, the full cloud is coming soon!
Look for Wi-Fi spots Near Where You Are: New York City is a great place to work remotely because there are about as many open/free Wi-Fi spots in the City as there are people! You can look at websites, such as Open WiFi Spots, and find available/trusted networks near you. As always, practice safety when using open networks as these networks are more susceptible to shady characters snooping on your incoming and outgoing digital connections.
Stay tuned for digital security tips and best practices from LaptopMD.
Tell me in the comments – what are your remedies to your (im-)mobile frustrations?