These are the rules for being safe using a Windows computer in 2012. Memorize them, forward them to your friends, post them on Facebook, alert the troops, sound the alarm, and walk from door to door passing them out to your neighbors!

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.

Choose passwords carefully. Your passwords are your defense against identity theft, financial loss, compromised computers, and breaches of confidentiality and privilege. If you use a weak password, or if you use the same password over and over every time something calls for one, you are jeopardizing yourself and your business.

Install updates from Microsoft promptly. Look in the lower right corner for the update icon (Win7/Vista) or gold shield (WinXP).

Install updates to Acrobat, Adobe Reader, Flash, Java, and Quicktime promptly. Each will alert you from the lower right corner. Most malware in 2011 was installed by poisoned web sites exploiting an out-of-date version of one of these programs.

Install security software and keep it up to date. Home users and small businesses should use Microsoft Security Essentials.

Know the name of your security 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.

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. At a minimum, Windows 7 and Vista users should be using the built-in backup program to back up data and disk images on an external hard drive.

Keep your mobile devices secure. Smartphones and iPads are easily misplaced or stolen. Do not keep confidential or privileged information on a mobile device in an unprotected app.

Be careful out there!

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