Panagiotis Leontios

Stay safe online: 5 secrets every PC (and Mac) owner should know

In Business, IT on 11/07/2011 at 12:14 pm

In any given week, I get dozens of requests for help. The #1 question of 2011? It’s no contest:

“How do I protect myself online?”

These days I’m getting that question in equal numbers from PC and Mac owners who are concerned about the best way to avoid being sucker-punched by social engineering attacks.

Many people think that security begins and ends with antivirus software. I disagree. Should you run antivirus software? As I’ve said before, if you don’t know the answer to that question, then the answer is yes.

So let’s stipulate that you’re running a well-supported, up-to-date security program—whether you use a PC or a Mac. What else do you need to do? In this post, I share the five steps I teach to friends, family members, and clients who want to avoid malware, scareware, phishing sites, and other online scams.

If you’ve been paying attention to the current threat landscape, much of the advice in this post will be familiar, even obvious. A lot of it is just common sense, but some is unconventional wisdom. Yes, of course you should expect to be attacked if you download porn or pirated software. But just staying out of bad online neighborhoods isn’t sufficient anymore.

These days, threats can come from unexpected places: Google (and Bing) search results, compromised websites, deceptive ads, seemingly innocent downloads. You don’t have to be doing anything out of the ordinary to inadvertently stumble across one of these potential threats.

If I had to summarize my guidance in a single sound bite, it would go something like this: Pay attention to your surroundings, and don’t be stupid.

Let’s break that down: Stay safe online: 5 secrets every PC (and Mac) owner should know

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