Internet Security: Best Practices

The Library Link of the Day today was to an article from Computers in Libraries called “IT Security for You and Your Library”. I just wanted to highlight here the solutions they give at the end of the article because they can’t be reiterated enough. Please, please, please take care of yourself and your information online.


It’s easy, in theory, to keep your PC safe. It all comes down to three things:
1. Keep everything patched and updated.
2. Never trust anything.
3. Use good passwords.

Your Computer

–Keep your OS fully patched and updated.
–Make sure every program on your PC is updated. Especially don’t miss Java and anything made by Adobe (e.g., Flash and Acrobat).
–Never install things you’re not sure are safe. Especially don’t trust anything from Torrents or P2P sites. Avoid downloading programs from unknown sources.
–Use a reputable virus and malware protection software program. Keep it up-to-date, and run it often.
–Never trust any links, attachments, short links, or anything else from anywhere or anyone unless you are sure what’s inside.
–Have a recovery plan—is your stuff backed up?
–Consider changing up your hosts file and/or using something such as OpenDNS.

Your Email
–Never open email attachments unless you know for sure what that file contains.
–Never click a link unless you know for sure that where it leads is safe.
–Check your mail filters and forwards for things you didn’t add.
–Use good passwords.
–Sign out when you’re done.
–Use two-factor authentication when possible (e.g., Google Authenticator for Gmail).

Your Browser

–Keep your browsers updated to the latest secure releases.
–Keep all plug-ins updated to the latest secure releases, especially Java and anything from Adobe.
–Don’t install things from sources you don’t trust.
–Block cookies, Flash, and JavaScript (use with caution; this will cause you trouble).
–Use a password manager to store all your many passwords.
–Watch out for short links.
–Use plug-ins that work to keep you private and secure.

Your Social Media Stuff
–Double-check your apps. Make sure you know which applications have access to your profiles.
–Use two factor authentication when possible.
–Read Facebook’s guides in its Safety Center.
–Monitor and adjust your privacy and security settings.
–Use good passwords.
–Get more selective about sending and accepting friend requests. Don’t friend everyone.
–Show “limited friends” a cut-down version of your profile.
–Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail all offer help if you do, in fact, lose your accounts.

I’ll take a minute here to plug a tool I’ve been using to help with passwords. LastPass can help generate secure passwords, store those passwords, maintain that information locally (on your computer not in the cloud), and gives an option for two step authentication. Two step, or two factor, authentication requires that you use a secondary level to your password. In most cases, this means you add an app or text message service to your phone that releases a random number to help authenticate you as the owner of the password. Just make sure you lock the device (i.e. set a 4 digit password or swipe sequence to access your apps) that has this capability installed. This has helped me tremendously, especially when I wanted a secure way to maintain passwords related to financial data like my student loans and mortgage. Don’t be one of the people with the most common worst passwords each year.


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