Understanding why Online Security is important

[This a guest blog post from my colleague & dear friend, Rauf]

Understanding why Online Security is important

I could dive into the usual do’s and don’ts of security but within 5 minutes  most of you would have switched off or started to think about what to watch on YouTube so let’s try a different approach.

How many of you have a front door?  Pretty much all of you, in fact some of you will have more than one if you live in flats or apartment complexes.  You wouldn’t leave your front door open and expose yourself and your family to an increased level of risk now would you?

So what about your mobile assets?  Many of you drive cars and again, you wouldn’t leave your nice expensive car unlocked, or even your beaten up little runabout for that matter if it had your SatNav, your laptop, phone etc. in it, would you?

These attitudes to our own and our family’s personal safety are not in built into us at birth.  For many of our grandparents security was not as big a priority as it is for us.  We’ve all heard, even if anecdotally, that there was a time when people used to leave their doors open and unlocked.  I’m
sure there are still places in the world like that but they are the exception and are becoming rarer every day.  The world has changed, dramatically, as we move more and more of our lives online we are creating a wealth of personal capital there as well.  We are still learning that we need locks in our digital world in the same way as our physical.

For those of us who have been there since the early days of the internet it was a time of freedom and exploration, but those days are gone and there are many people and organisations out there who are ready, willing and eager to take and exploit our personal information.  We have not yet realised the value of our digital lives and possessions and they do have a value.  Data is constantly being traded by companies and organisations (both legitimate and not) around the world.  That data is not a bunch of abstract ones and zeros, it’s information about you and I, when we were born, are we married, where we shop, etc.  We don’t realise how valuable this information is in much the same way we don’t realise how valuable our TV’s and laptops are until we lose them or have to insure them.

Obviously some information is more important but have we really thought about how important all our information is.  We would not walk around with our bank account number inked on our arm or leave the key to our safety deposit box lying around on our desk at work.  They may not be enough to let some-one walk away with our life savings but why take the risk, yet we do the online equivalent every day, sometimes every single time we go online.  We leave digital trails whenever we wonder through the internet, we give websites permission to track our movements, scripts run and gather information from our computers malware potentially lurks on any unfamiliar website (and sometimes on the familiar ones).  For the most part we are unaware of these things happening in the background.

But how many of us run up to date anti-virus, and anti-spyware?

How many of us protect our browsers where we spend most of our online time?

Let me leave you with this thought, our online security is every bit as important as our physical security and increasingly more so.  If your car was stolen you can replace it fairly quickly, if your identity is stolen and your credit record trashed it could take you years to rebuild it.

It wouldn’t be fair to encourage you to improve your online security without providing a few links to some tools to help you do that.  There are many anti-virus applications out there, some free, some commercial.  In some countries the larger banks will provide their online users with free anti-virus so worth checking.

There are fewer anti-spyware apps and even less programs that provide complete protection, this is an area where a little research and preparation can pay dividends in the long run.

In no particular order you can try the following (these are not personal recommendations, just a few of the more well known applications that you may wish to try out).  Remember that some applications may not play nice with each other, for example running 2 anti-virus programs can cause problems and will make your computer run much slower.

Anti-Virus

http://www.360totalsecurity.com/

https://www.avast.com/en-gb/index

http://free.avg.com/gb-en/homepage

http://www.avira.com/en/avira-free-antivirus

http://www.pandasecurity.com/uk/homeusers/solutions/free-antivirus/

Anti-Spyware/Malware

http://www.malwarebytes.org/

http://www.superantispyware.com/

http://www.lavasoft.com/products/ad_aware_free.php?

https://www.safer-networking.org/

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