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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Is cybersecurity really possible?

My security worries (and yours,too!) 
With all the news about security breaches at Target, Neiman-Marcus and other retail outlets, I finally decided that I could no longer avoid facing the truth: my 18-month old computer is getting slower - fast. And despite a host of home-remedy security-boosting efforts, I was still get too much general junk and pop-ups (even though my settings supposedly “block” them!). Worse, I frequently found myself having to restart my computer to get back on kilter . . . a symptom of a growing potential for a system crash.

Like me, you've probably had anti-virus software installed since your computer was new. But like most “do it yourself” software, Norton (or McAfee or Other) is only as savvy as the user (you and me). And since I’m not technically savvy enough, I can't maximize the benefits. When I told a friend that it was just "a $60 icon that sits there giving me a false sense of security," he laughed. But the more I think about it, I know that for me, it's a true statement.

A video overview of the problem (via The Today Show).
A few weeks ago, this video was on The Today Show. It will quickly help you understand the severity of the security problems we all share: (Click here)

The most common types of malware.
The major types of malware (e.g., "Adware," "Bot," "Bug," "Ransomware," etc.) are highlighted in this brief, clear article: (Click here)

The video and article above make it clear: if anyone thinks that their computer is not infected, they’re in denial. While a brand new computer is a "clean slate," it starts to pick up unwanted "stuff" as soon as you download the initial software.

Eliminating malware problems.
After spending way too much time reading about – and trying to do – a variety of do-it-yourself security “fixes,” I decided to get help from “real people” at an online security company. I spoke with them on the phone and checked their credentials. Once I chose one, I bought a two-year plan and got started.
Like any tech administrator, the security person had to take remote control of my system. In about three hours, they removed (“cleaned”) out a lot of  debris. Not all "junk" can be removed, though, since all of those downloads made over time add up, and each brings in unwanted items.

Today, I do find that my start-up speed, pop-ups and restarts are somewhat improved. And I now understand that I need to be even more meticulous about what I download and where I "register" for information, services or shopping.

This post barely presents the tip of the tip of the iceberg regarding computer security issues. Hopefully, it has at least raised your awareness of a problem that exists and is growing. If you decide to get the type of hands-on security help that I did, I encourage you to read reviews and ask Customer Service people lots of questions before choosing.

Note: I hesitate to give security company referrals because I'm still a student of solutions. A good resource for recommendations is Consumer Reports which rates several options. Or, you might consider using Best Buy's Geek Squad or another local tech specialist. I will continue to investigate and report any new findings!

Coming soon!

In an upcoming issue of Elwell Money Minder, I will cover ways you can avoid getting malware. It’s never too late to start using Best Practices.