Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ransomeware and Other Windows Ills

With Ransomeware and many other computer ills it's mainly about Windows. There are other computer systems not so exposed.

Windows is special. With Windows you need to do your own support to keep things going. It is up to you to make yourself as secure as possible using it. No one else can do that for you with Windows. 

Ransomware can lock up your Windows computer until you pay a ransom. This is just the latest of Windows' many ills. 

Now, security exposures are grossly overhyped and rare. But they do happen in Windows. (My experience comes from working with hundreds of users in the past on a one to one basis.  I feel a responsibility to unschooled users of Windows.) 

The easiest way to avoid exposures would be not to use Windows for any Internet related activity but restrict yourself to offline for work with Microsoft Office, for example. Do your browsing in a safer place. 

So Don't Rely on Windows Alone?

Or you could simply avoid Windows altogether, even if you needed to run Microsoft Office from a more secure device and operating system. There are also plenty of office suites which work just like Microsoft Office on other safe platforms. 

You could even run Windows from another operating system such as Apple or Linux for Android for most tablets. 

At Your Own Risk 

All That is a little extreme. 

There are ways to run Windows. However, (disclaimer) alternatives are at your own risk and depend upon your own tech know-how. Neither I nor anyone else can protect you completely from an insecure system like Windows. 

Avoid Patent Medicine Fixes 

I emphatically recommend against many of the nostrums to remove malware. No matter how many of these you use there is no way to be sure there is not a vestige somewhere in your system. The ONLY sure and safe way to remove malware is to reinstall the operating system. Fortunately, Windows 8 makes that easy. So get to know how to reinstall in a jiffy. 

Keep Your Data in a Safe Place 

A less extreme approach to security would then be to keep your data on Microsoft's SkyDrive so as to be able to reinstall quickly, as now is possible. That way, it would be very easy to recover from a disaster. Reinstalling would be quick, and your data would be safe. 

Learn to Use Windows 8 

The downside to that is that you need to learn to use Windows 8. This is definitely worth the effort, but there are other ways to to skin a cat without doing so. There are safeguards, however, which really need to be employed if you do use Windows online.

Make Email Secure

The most obvious of these is to protect yourself from malicious email attachments. Use a reliable email like Google's Gmail and think carefully before opening any attachment. Gmail screens and encrypts content.

However even this may not be practical or entirely effective. It may not be enough.

Other Measures are Needed

There are other measures which are essential and necessary for Windows. It is possible to run Windows inside a secure pipeline or in virtual mode. That gets technical. You can search for the details on internet.

Configure that Router Using Windows

Without a properly configured router Windows is unsafe. Get that router configured with a reliable internet service.

Safety then starts at your router. Without one you are altogether insecure.

Again, for Windows the router then needs to be configured. Unfortunately this usually does not happen unless the router is supplied by a competent entity such as Comcast, which also screens content.

The router needs to be configured so it cannot be taken over by someone else via Windows. That means applying a new password, disabling control on a wide-area basis, disabling PNP and so on. Again, search internet for more.

It is possible to run a second router in tandem to make it even more difficult to access your data.  Works.

Avoid Insecure Wi-Fi when Using Windows

Your WiFi access point needs to be protected with an encrypted data key. It is best not to use Windows with an unknown WiFi. And in your Windows computer the Java programming language needs to be disabled, ideally along with Adobe programs such as Adobe Reader and Flash Player. They are OK on a tablet if you need them.

Exposing Your Personal Data

You need to make sure that you have not exposed you r records to misuse by others. That does not mean excluding well protected internetsoftware. It does mean care with Social Security and account numbers. No one should require you to provide them your social security number, although they do anyway, period.

You can also protect your accounts in various other ways by limiting and controlling access tightly.

Learn to Use the Newest Tool Windows 8

With all its faults, Windows 8 is probably the safest Windows version to date, so that whatever concerns you have about it, you are obligated to learn to use it if you want its security. And don't try to make it work like older versions of Windows. Although the new Windows may seem awkward and strange, it is pretty nice to be able to use the touchscreen.

If you use it, I would recommend that you replace anybody else's antivirus software with Microsoft's own Microsoft Security Essentials combined with Microsoft Defender. This is built in. Just delete anything else which may have been installed with your particular brand of computer computer.

Don't let the bad guys scare you off.

Do your Homework Yourself

If you really want Windows you need to do your homework. Otherwise use some other platform.

By the way you do not need to spend an arm and a leg for a Windows 8 computer. My $280 Asus touch screen laptop is a wonder, configured for performance and used for one application at a time, no games, and no video editing.

Spend the rest of your money on a much safer device which is not exposed to so many disasters.

First on the list should be a Nexus 7 2nd generation tablet. Then, maybe a Chromebook, an iPad, or even a Mac.

I do use Windows and I do enjoy the benefits of Windows 8 and my remarkable cheap laptop from Asus but I am under no illusions about what I need to do for security. That will never be enough to be completely comfortable.

Still, if you are still using spreadsheets, this might be the way to go. The trouble is that those still using spreadsheets are not likely to want to learn new ways of doing things.

(links to follow.)

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