Computerworld does a great job of aligning the childhood arcade game of Whac-A-Mole and information security. "If you've ever played the silly, maddening game known as "Whac-A-Mole," you know what futility feels like. As you smack one mole with the mallet, up pops another one. Their speed and number escalates as you flail away, trying to keep up. At some point, you realize there's no hope of winning."
That's why I hated that game. What attracted me to it was the same instinct that Barney Rubbles' son Bam Bam had, I liked hitting stuff with blunt instruments. But that only takes you so far. Skill and precision is what it takes to win the game.
In today's world of cyber security and identity theft prevention it's not enough to chase the next mole and whack it with another patch, or shred your own data and hope someone doesn't hack your cell phone company.
Skill is understanding the problem and proactively implementing a solution.
In the late 90's and early 2000's, hackers hacked because it made them popular among their hacker peeps. They hacked for the challenge, fun and fame. Soon after the public started spending more time online, shopping, banking, using their PC for managing personal affairs. Now hackers aren't just wreaking havoc, deleting files or making IT administrators miserable, they're stealing lots of proprietary data. No longer fun and fame, the real game is illegal financial gain.
Hackers changed their motivation, which means you need to change your perceptions of what a computer is and how to operate it. It's no longer something you just play Solitaire on. Or a place where you socialize and have friends. It's a cash register to a hacker.
1. Run Windows Update; Or it may be called "Microsoft Update" on your PC. The goal here's for XP is to end up with "Service Pack 3" installed. Or go to "Control Panel" and seek out "Security Center". And click "Turn on Automatic Updates" and let Microsoft do this automatically. In Vista the process is similar and your goal is "Service Pack 1"
2. Install Anti-Virus; Most PCs come with bundled anti-virus that runs for free for 6 months to a year. Then you just re-up the license. If you don't, then every day that the anti-virus isn't updated, is another opportunity for criminal hackers to turn your PC into a Zombie that allows your computer to be a Slave sending out more viruses to other PCs and turning your PC into a Spambot selling Viagra.
3. Install Spyware Removal Software; Most anti-virus providers define spyware as a virus now. However it is best to run a spyware removal program monthly to make sure your PC is rid of software that may allow a criminal hacker to remotely monitor you're keystrokes, websites visited and the data on your PC.
4. Run Firefox; Microsofts Internet Explorer is clunky and the most hacked software on the planet. Mozillas Firefox is less hacked and more secure.
5. Secure Your Wireless; If you are running an unsecured wireless connection at home or the office, anyone can jump on your network from 300-500 feet away and access your files. Serious. The router has instruction on how to set up WEP or WPA security. WPA is more secure. If this is a foreign language to you, then hire someone or get your 15 year old to do it.
6. Install a Firewall; Microsoft's operating system comes with a built in firewall. But it is not very secure. Go with a 3rd party firewall that is prepackaged with anti-virus software.
7. Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search "credit freeze" or "security freeze" and go to consumersunion.org and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes the SSN useless to the thief.
8. Invest in Identity Theft Protection and Prevention. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what's buzzing out there in regards to YOU