Protecting Your Systems

Are my Systems Secure by Default?

Are any computer and network devices you use set up to be secure by default? Not generally.

Although there are a plethora of computers and network devices (firewall, router, wireless router, etc.) on the market, and we cannot address specifics, we can give some direction on starting to secure them.

  • Go through the install/setup procedures. While this is required for "Windows" computers, it might not be on other devices. Going through the setup (and following below guidelines) will help make it more secure.
    • Create an account for each person. You shouldn't be sharing accounts, not with anyone.
    • Create/change passwords. Ensure each account has a strong password. Change any default passwords.
    • Configure any Security Settings for your device or software. This will help close and lock any "open doors".
    • Don't forget related software. Your web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari), office suite, anti-virus and other software have their own security settings to lock down.
    • Get help if you need it. If you don't have a friend or family member to assist, consider using a service to help set up your computer.

Backups

Regular backup and recovery procedures give you the ability to restore your computers and data in the event of a crash or other loss.

Media for backups

  • CD-ROMs and DVDs are older technologies, but are still very useful for performing backups. Nero, Roxio or newer versions of windows allow you to perform backups to these media.
  • USB drives are compact and easy to backup with, just copy the files to your USB, remove and store it.
  • Another disk drive (internal or with a USB connection) can allow you to set up simple, regular backups of critical data.
  • The cloud: There are a number of online backup services ($) that can automatically backup to their servers for you.

Three parts to backups

  • Operating system: windows, MAC OS or Linux. Windows typically lets you do this via the control panel. This is important during a hard drive error or crash or when a rebuild is required.
  • Data: may include pictures, scanned documents, audio, other important files, email, bookmarks, list of software. This is the most important part. You can replace a computer and software.
  • Software: any important software that you cannot download easily.

Don't forget to test your backups on a regular basis to ensure you can read (recover) them when you need them!

Store your backups (especially data) offsite if possible. In the event of a major catastrophe (fire or flood) this will let you save all the information you have backed up. Potential offline sources are safe deposit box, relative's house, and neighbor's house

Secure Your Web Browser

Your web browser (Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera, etc.) is the tool you use to access the World Wide Web. Securing it should be one of your first steps in secure online banking.

Most settings can be managed via a "tools" menu on your browser. Here are some ways to secure your browser:

  • Don’t have your browser automatically save your user id or password for future use. Although this is convenient, it may allow the disclosure of this information without your knowledge.
  • Cookies are data stored on your computer by a website about your transactions or account. Clear these cookies regularly and consider using a feature or add on for your browser to manage them.
  • JavaScript is code embedded in a web page that could perform hostile actions. Consider using a feature or add on for your browser to block JavaScript by default.
  • Clear the browser Cache and history on a regular basis to ensure personally identifiable information (PII) is not available to hackers.
  • Make sure you use secure socket layer (SSL) sites identified by https:// when performing any kind of secure transactions that require a login. This tells you that your communication is encrypted.
  • Keep your browser patched (up-to-date). Web browsers are probably your most vulnerable piece of software, but the manufacturers send patches often. Apply them manually or automatically to help keep your system secure.