Securing Your Local Environment

A couple of months ago we briefly covered how to help keep your login information secure. Some of the biggest threats to maintaining secure login information are your own computers and devices (phones, tablets, etc.). It is unfortunately quite common for a computer to be infected and any login information used on it compromised as a result. Here are a few important things to consider which can help to greatly reduce your chances of being infected.

Patch / Update Your Software

This is the golden rule as far as security is concerned and there really is no excuse to not be keeping your software updated. Attackers are quick to target new vulnerabilities so it is very important that all patches be applied in a timely manner. The three main things to keep note of would be:

  • Operating System – It doesn’t matter if you use Windows, Linux, or even a Mac. All of them can be vulnerable and need to be kept updated.
  • Anti-virus Software & Definitions – Should anything get through, your AV software needs to be current so that it has the best possible chance of preventing an infection.
  • Browser Related Software – This would include your web browser of choice along with all plugins. Flash, Java, and Adobe Reader are all commonly targeted by malicious websites.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to worry about updating other software. Those are simply a few of the more important items to take note of. Ideally you should be applying updates to every piece of software that you run.

Anti-Virus Software & Firewall

As pointed out above, it is very important that you are running the most current version of your anti-virus software and the latest definitions available. It doesn’t hurt to have it run an automatic daily scan either. I’m personally a fan of ESET’s products due to them being relatively lightweight and unobtrusive. They have products for Windows, Mac, and even Android devices.

You’ll also want to make sure you have a firewall installed and properly configured. Although I would recommend against ever connecting to untrusted or unsecured networks, if you must do so you need a firewall. Many operating systems and AV software have a firewall built-in already so it is just a matter of enabling and configuring it. If you’re looking for more control you’ll probably want to look into a separate firewall.

Other Devices

Don’t forget about your phones, tables, routers, and other devices that might be on your network. Routers will often be the core of your network and you need to make sure that firmware updates are applied when vulnerabilities are patched by the vendor. Likewise updates to your mobile devices and all of their applications should be installed as they become available. I would advise against the rooting or jail breaking of your devices as this can lead to further security concerns.

These days our phones contain a great deal of personal information. It is a very good idea to have them secured with a PIN and have some method of being able to remotely wipe or track the device if it is lost.

Browse Wisely

By far the biggest day-to-day threat is visiting a malicious website. Even very popular sites have been compromised to serve malicious content. Trust no one. You can significantly limit your exposure by disabling JavaScript, Java, Flash, etc. We will be covering this in more detail in a future post.

This is not meant to be an all encompassing guide to securing your environment. We simply wanted to offer some quick tips which can help to provide a solid foundation to start with. If you have anything to add feel free to post a comment!

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