These are the rules for being safe using a Windows computer in 2011. Memorize them, tape them to your refrigerator, pass them on to your friends!
Install updates from Microsoft promptly. Look in the lower right corner for the gold shield (WinXP) or update icon (Win7/Vista).
Install updates to Acrobat, Adobe Reader, Flash, Java, and Quicktime promptly. Each will alert you from the lower right corner.
- The best way to keep up with updates: sign up for the Bruceb Consulting monitoring service.
Install antivirus software and keep it up to date.
Know the name of your antivirus software. If you get a “security warning” that does not display the exact name of your security software, it is phony; if you click on anything, you will probably install malware.
If a web site brings something up on your screen that might be malware, turn your computer off with the power button. Get your hands off the mouse and do not click on “OK,” “Cancel,” or the X in the upper right corner! Anything that you click might lower the defenses on the computer and install malware.
Antivirus software & UAC will not always protect you against malware if you click OK at the wrong time. The bad guys are liars. They will say anything to get past your defenses, without conscience or remorse. Use your common sense. Read and think before you click OK.
Don’t click on links to web sites unless you know exactly where you’re going.
- Follow links with carefree abandon to and from legitimate sites, but don’t click on links that arrive in spam e-mail, instant messages, web forums, or IRC chats, or that start from an untrustworthy web site.
- Don’t click on links in email messages unless you deeply trust the judgment of the person who sent the message.
- Don’t click on links in forwarded messages.
- Shortened links are becoming popular in Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and social networking sites. You can’t tell where they lead by looking at them. Don’t follow them unless you trust the person who created the link.
- Just because something is listed in a Google search doesn’t mean it’s safe. Make a judgment about where you’re going before you click.
Do not install any updates if prompted by a random web page. Example: you’re on a dodgy web site and a window appears: “You must download a new version of Flash player to play this video file.” Close the window and check for an update separately.
Never, never, never open email attachments unless you know with 100% certainty that the attachment is something you expected and want to receive.
Back up your computers. Choose a backup strategy, understand how it works, and keep your backups up to date.
Choose passwords carefully. Using the same weak password everywhere puts you at tremendous risk.
Be careful out there!