The big lie of computer security is that security improves by imposing complex passwords on users. In real life, people write down anything they can't remember. Security is increased by designing for the way humans actually behave. -Jakob Nielsen
Hello everyone and welcome to my first article. First off, as the title states, this is for beginners, not you experienced computer users out there. Second, I am not anywhere near being good at hacking, I just find computers enjoyable and this article mainly reflects on situations that I have found are the most common after being asked dozens of times by friends and family for help. Now let’s get down to business!
The most obvious problem with most people’s computer security is their password(s). People often leave their passwords written on pieces of paper, or on Word documents. Others just make their passwords based solely on how easy it is to memorize them. The problem with this is that they are often very generic or easy to guess, perhaps their last name and a 1 or something of the sort. Unfortunately, the most common password isn’t love, sex, secret, or god (high five if you get this), the most common password from one study was “123456”, with others such as “qwerty”, “abc123”, and the ingenious “Password” also high up on the list. Come on people; come up with a password that no one will ever be able to guess. Also, using dictionary words is not a great idea because it can make the password very easy to crack. Making the letters upper and lower case can slow the crack quite a bit, but having a random password will always be the best. Maybe use some combination of letters and numbers that is an abbreviation for something important to you, or just memorize some crazy jumbles of numbers and letters, whatever works for you.
The second most common security problem that I have seen happening to people is someone “hacking” their account on some social network site such as Facebook. And no, they were not attacked by an actual hacker. They just left their computer logged into their account and walked away for a minute. This is the most absurd problem on this list in my opinion because it doesn’t matter how insanely difficult that your password is, how good your programming skills are, or how many anti-virus programs that you have on your computer, your “friends” who are standing there can just zip right in and screw with your settings. This doesn’t only apply to social networking sites either, this can apply to an actual machine or network, etc. Whenever I step away from my computer, I lock it, log out of whatever I am on, whatever needs to be done to ensure that my computer is safe from prying eyes. Sure it may be a hassle logging back in every time, but I would rather have to type my password a few extra times than have to fix whatever problems might occur on my unattended machine. Besides, I don’t know about you but I cringe at the thought of someone getting their paws all over my computer.
The third thing that I want to discuss is the most common problem that I see people having when they have an infected computer. When I go in to help them, I find that there are numerous settings that are out of whack, random files on their drives, things shifted around and items that just plain don’t function. They often tell me that these things have been going on for oh, maybe a week or so. They let the problem get way out of hand. They don’t notice that their settings have been changed, files moved, etc. until it is being done to such a degree that it is impossible to ignore. When using a computer, you should be taking note when you tweak settings, what the default settings are for different controls, and when you change them (just have a general idea, you don’t need specific dates and times). This way you know that when things start acting differently, you can check to make sure that it wasn’t just some setting you changed the day before interfering with whatever you are doing now. This allows you detect whatever bug you might have before any major damage is done.
Are you bored yet? Well just hang in there, I only have one more topic to mention. This last segment is about people’s perception of antivirus software. They think that it is some sort of cure all shield from the fire and brimstone that is the internet. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Especially when you don’t update your expensive software. It always boggles my mind when people spend money on antivirus software but don’t keep it up to date. This means that their antivirus software will not protect them from most viruses, because hundreds of new ones are created every week. This means that if not updated, your software is completely useless against any current attacks (nearly all of them). I personally use freeware antivirus or antimalware programs, and they work just fine because I keep them up to date. My personal choice is AVG, but many people swear by Avira or others so it is really up to personal preference as far as that goes, but I honestly believe that there is very little difference, if any in the protection that they offer. Again though, you still need to be aware of any random problems that crop up and you need to have a fast response time to any threats. It isn’t about having the software; it is about using it to its maximum potential.
I hope you found my article informative or at the very least just a little bit interesting. Remember, this article was written for beginners and only covers problems that I have found to be common with average computer users. It also serves as a reminder to maintain good habits when on the computer, because if you don’t, there is a world of frustration waiting for you.