Summer: Info Security Tips for the Long Hot Days
July 1, 2010 | By Damon Armour, IT Security Officer, contributing writer
Summer is definitely here, and for some this means summer break. Yet there is no break for those who wish to exploit your personal information for their personal gain. As people travel on vacation or stay at home relaxing, their maintaining good information security habits can save them from a ruined vacation and a stress-filled summer. This article addresses some common tips to protect personal information on these long hot days.
Facebook has been a hot topic of discussion not only in the ASU Report, but in the mainstream media. When a long-awaited summer vacation finally arrives, sharing with family and friends is always a treat. In many cases, a way to share details is through Facebook. Updating the status to reflect that an individual will be away from home for two weeks may be nice to know for close friends and family, yet to those who are not close, this information may provide an opportunity to take advantage of the absence. With this in mind, set your Facebook security settings to keep certain information, such as status updates, available only to family and friends whom you trust with that information. No one wants to come home to a break-in.
Another tip for the summer, which should be practiced year-round, is to keep your computer patched with the latest updates/fixes. Maintaining proper security patches will keep the summertime focus on enjoying the sun rather than being stuck inside fixing computer problems. Microsoft releases patches on the second Tuesday of each month. Pay close attention for the updates around that date to ensure Windows and Office are up-to-date. Other software providers patch at different intervals. Adobe products have experienced an increased need for security updates due to flaws in their software. Adobe’s Flash is patched every couple of months because of newly discovered vulnerabilities. Stay vigilant on software patching to keep personal computers in top shape throughout the year.
Along with maintaining up-to-date patching of the computer’s software, also keeping anti-malware solutions current is essential. Malware does not take a vacation nor does it respect the fact that an individual does. Anti-virus definitions are just part of the equation to having an effective defense against new variants of malware. Anti-malware solutions also have an engine that runs the scans to protect the system. If an older engine is installed, it may not be able to utilize the information in a current definition. Most major anti-malware firms (McAfee, Symantec, etc.) will list the most current engine version on their websites. If your product is out-of-date, upgrading to the newest product or utilizing a free anti-malware solution may be necessary. Microsoft offers its Security Essentials product to consumers for free. Other capable products such as AVG , AVAST, and AntiVir are just a few of the many offerings available. The free versions normally have fewer features than paid versions. An individual needs to evaluate those features against the costs and find the right balance.
Finally, when traveling, especially air travel, keep a portable computer in a carry-on bag rather than checked baggage. TSA recommends on its website to keep a laptop in carry-on to prevent any physical damage. Another strong reason to maintain contact with the laptop is to safeguard the data on the laptop. Luggage is lost on occasion, and a laptop is a valuable item to be stolen if discovered. Yet for many of us, the information stored on our laptops is far more valuable. If traveling with sensitive information stored on a portable device, look into whole disk or directory-level encryption to safeguard the information. A solution like TrueCrypt can provide these features. Be aware of the local, state, and country laws that govern the use of encryption when visiting another destination.
Summertime is vacation season for many. The last thing any individual wants to worry about is information/computer security. Yet, just like the proper packing of a suitcase, planning ahead to maintain good information security habits is key to a problem-free break from the normal grind. This article addresses just a few practices that, if consistently maintained, can provide a benefit no matter what season/time of year it is.