5 most common mistakes computer users make.

StressedShock

Since we are using computers daily, our lifestyle became a lot smarter than what it used to be. We are now able to produce the same amount of work in a fraction of the time than what was possible just a few years ago. We became totally dependent on the technology we use, but our dependence comes with a risk, and if not mitigated, at a price.

People lose valuable time and money due to the complacent manner they use computers daily, but with a little vigilance and a change of a few habits here and there, you can reduce your risk of information loss significantly. Here are the areas that pose the greatest risk to your personal information security:

Insufficient backup

It surprises me how many people neglect to focus on a backup solution. Over the years you will have accumulated a significant contact list of friends, family and clients. Important email, documents, photos, and even purchased items like music and software are also at risk. The loss of such information could cripple your ability to conduct business as you used to. This is easily avoidable with a proper backup solution.

Whether you are using Windows or OSX, your computer comes standard with  decent backup software. For medium to large organisations, I recommend Symantec Backup Exec or Netbackup with an LTO Tape library for storage.

Here are few tips I recommend:

  • Schedule your backup to run at least once a week if you are using your computer only on weekends. If you are using your computer daily and for business, you should schedule your backup to run daily.
  • Use a decent external hard drive for backup purposes at a minimum, and refrain from using flash drives.
  • If you travel, never put your backup media in the same bag as your laptop. Ladies, a portable hard drive should fit comfortably in your handbag. Leave a separate backup you made prior to your departure at home.
  • Where possible, store important documentation in a cloud (like ICloud for mac, and Onedrive for Microsoft)

For more help in setting up your backup solution, please visit Microsoft’s page on backup:

Apple also has a step by step guide to set up Time Machine, you can follow it here. (Time machine is the best personal computer backup solution I have come across in my 25 years working as an IT professional, taking into account its ease of use, simplicity and power. Pity we can’t have it for Windows.)

Insufficient Anti-virus software

There has always been a debate among computer professionals whether mac users need anti-virus or not. I personally feel that it is unnecessary,  but there are those who will disagree. The same cannot be said for Windows machines. If you use a Windows-based computer, you need anti-virus whether the machine is hooked to the internet or not. I have seen many PC’s being infected with viruses over the years by means of portable storage such as flash drives and CDs.

If your anti-virus is not kept up to date, it is useless and you are in the same boat as the person who didn’t install one at all. All decent anti-virus systems will attempt to update itself if connected to the internet. If you have an off-line machine, you should make sure you update it before you connect removable storage to the machine from other sources.

Here are a few anti-virus solutions I recommend – all of them work great:

I also like to supplement my anti-virus with a malware removal tool. There are others, but I have learnt to rely on “Spybot Search and Destroy” and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware  over the years. There are of course also a debate whether you will ever need such software. If you ever found your legitimate sites filled with the strange advertisement pop-ups when browsing, these are the tools you will need to get rid of it.

Unsafe Passwords

Many people will write a password down on a desk pad at their computer or sometimes use a sticky note on the side of their monitor. Another habit of computer users is to use the same login credentials for all their websites.

All the above-mentioned practices are wrong and outright dangerous. Someone who knows your login credentials for one site can easily try the same login credentials for other sites such as Google Mail, Facebook, Skype or even your bank account.

Do not fall into this trap. If you fear you will forget the credentials for a specific site, here are some more secure methods you can use to safeguard your passwords:

  • If you feel more comfortable with writing credentials on a paper, keep in in your safe. I guess this can also be compromised, but it is a far safer method to store your passwords than a ridiculous sticky.
  • You can keep a password protected document with your credentials in cloud space (remember that storing such a document on your computer itself is also not a good idea. If you lose your computer, you will also lose your electronically saved file and with it access to all  your sites)

I personally recommend using Icloud Keychain from Apple. Your keychain passwords are kept secured and have 256 AES encryption. It is stored in your Icloud account, and only shared between trusted devices – remember you have to log in from a trusted device successfully before you have Icloud keychain access.

Failure to check the validity of websites before entering credentials

Do not except that you are on the correct website before entering your credentials, especially if you are logging on to a site provided on a link that was emailed to you. Here are the things you need to look out for:

How to check you are on a secure site
How to check you are on a secure site

Acting on unsolicited email.

Mail servers across the planet implement rules and security software as much as possible to prevent junk mail from landing in your Inbox. Every now and then some spammer gets a new brainwave to fool the system and then these messages go through. From time to time, you will, therefore,  get an email informing you that you have won the lotto yet again, or that you have to assist some African rich guy to get his money out of the country.

  • Do not act on these messages, they are all scams.
  • If you ever receive a message from your bank with a link embedded in it and some elaborate story about why you should click on it, don’t. Banks don’t send links – they are fully aware of the risks.
  • If you realise you have entered credentials into a suspicious site, act immediately by contacting the entity whose site might be falsified, and change your account details with them. Banks will generally encourage you to report such events to them if their customers are being attacked.

My intention with this article is not to create panic, but to assist you in changing some habits and save you from the trouble of losing your information – or worse, you hard earned cash. Please feel free to leave a comment below should you wish to add anything.

Jacques Oosthuysen

4 thoughts on “5 most common mistakes computer users make.

  1. Besides unsafe passwords, many users opt to use a fingerprint as authentication. Biometric authentication is very safe, but it so easily leads to forgetting the actual password…

    Most browsers and many applications provide a facility to remember your passwords. I recovered a WiFi encryption key recently by using Apple KeyChain… Just imagine someone else using your PC / tablet, etc. and logging into your online banking account because you told your browser to remember your password…

Leave a Reply