Protecting Your PC and Mobile Device

Basic Computer Safeguards

ISPO - actionHere are some basic steps all computer users should take to protect their PCs and mobile devices.  Review the articles and presentations in the Topic Library to learn more. 

Install Anti-Malware Programs and Keep Them Up-To-Date

Malware is the general term for malicious software, like computer viruses.  Most anti-malware programs work by looking for patterns within computer programs that are known to be harmful.  Malware writers know this, so they're constantly changing their malicious programs, just a little to evade detection.  So anti-malware vendors issue updates all the time.   ISPO recommends you configure your anti-malware software to update automatically.  That way, your PC will always be running the most current version.  And don't forget your tablet or smartphone -- they can be infected with malware too.

Keep Your System Patched

All software has bugs that can be exploited by bad guys.  Some bugs allow a bad guy to take control of your PC or to download malicious software to it.  When these bugs, or vulnerabilities, are discovered, software vendors issue software patches to fix them.  Microsoft, for example, releases patches the second Tuesday of every month.  Visit your software vendor's websites to find information about patches for your computer.  ISPO recommends you configure your PC to install security patches automatically.

Use Care When Reading eMail

In general, you must do something to infect your PC or mobile device with a virus, such as opening an email attachment or clicking on a link while reading email on your smartphone.  Sometimes the mail is a fraudulent attempt to get you to provide personal information or credit card information (phishing), sometime email contains a hoax, and sometimes the mail is just junk email (spam).   So take care when reading email.  If needed, follow up with the sender using a published telephone number.

Back Up Your Information

While computers and storage media (disks, USB sticks, CDs...) are much more reliable than they used to be, you should always back up your important files, pictures, recipes, the novel your writing, family history...  You have lots of options when choosing a backup strategy.  You can use an external hard drive or a cloud-based backup vendor, for example.  If you do perform backups to media, make sure you store it off-site (at a relative's house, for example) or a fire-proof safe.

Use Strong Passwords 

Like the key to your house, a password is the key to all information on your computer and mobile device.  Pick strong passwords and don't use the same password for everything.  That way, if a bad guy cracks one password, he doesn't have access to all of your accounts.  Learn all about passwords in ISPO's presentations, Password Cracking 101 and Password Management 201.


Protecting Mobile Devices

ISPO mobile devices graphicMobile devices pose a special challenge.  Because they're small and portable, they're easily lost or stolen.  In addition to the safeguards listed above, here are some key steps to take to protect mobile devices.  Learn more about protecting mobile devices in ISPO's presentation, Mobile Device Security (PDF).

Don't Let Mobile Devices Out of Your Sight

Always keep your mobile devices with you or locked in a secure location.  Don't, for example, leave them on a coffeehouse table while you get a refill.  Before leaving a location, such as an airplane, taxi, or movie theater, check to make sure you have your mobile device.

Know Your Apps and Don't Blindly Grant Permissions

Only download apps from trusted sources, like major vendors' app stores.   And while few folks enjoy reading legalese, read the terms of use and privacy statements before you download an app.  Many apps collect information about you or your contacts.  On Androids, for example, when you tap Install to download and install an app, a screen displays the "permissions" you grant it when you install it.  If, for example, a single-player game asks for permissions to send SMS messages, that should be a clear warning sign, because there's no need for a game like that to send text messages.


More Information

Apple Security Update

Microsoft's Safety & Security Center

Resources