Home technology best practices

You use it almost every day. You shop, bank, peruse social media and read random blogs (like this one). You are probably reading this on your home computer (PC or Mac doesn’t matter), you should be thinking about best practices of use for that system. Let’s review some of those, and how to set them up if you haven’t done so already.

PC

While I could break this down by different Windows Operating System versions, I want this to be fairly high level and generic.

  • Manufacturer Updates
    • Dell, Lenovo, HP and so on, all have BIOS, drivers and firmware updates that should be installed on a regular basis. Install these as they are released. This will help ensure that your system is at optimal performance from the manufacturer perspective.
    • Don’t be the person that doesn’t install the updates and has problems. This will be the first troubleshooting step when you ask for support and cause lots of extra troubleshooting time.
  •  Updates
    • Microsoft is “kind” enough to push out updates on a weekly basis, some of these updates are performance related, some are application stability, some are bug fixes, and most being security related. While it may be annoying or deployed during a bad time, it is always best to install these as soon as possible. Once you install, reboot doesn’t wait.
    • This is done by clicking on the Start button and going to Windows Update
  • Security
    • User accounts
      • Create your primary use account
      • Create a secondary admin account with a different password from the primary account
      • Create any additional guest/family accounts if needed
      • All controlled via Computer Management
    • UAC (User Account Control)
      • Leave UAC turned on, it is there as a safeguard to save you from yourself.
    • Admin rights
      • Don’t leave your primary user account with admin rights, it is a horrible bad practice and opens the door for your system to be compromised
      • see User accounts section above
    • Firewall
      • Turn on the firewall
      • Managed through the Windows Firewall application
    • Anti malicious software
      • Some Windows versions have a level of anti-virus, anti-malware software installed out of the box. This is good; however don’t it be the only software you use to protect your system.
  • Backups
    • While Windows systems does have a built-in backup and recovery solution. It does take some initial setup to get it going. Plug in your external HDD and allow the time necessary for the application to back up your system.
  • Applications
    • With Windows 10, your primary option for application install comes through the Microsoft Store. This ensures that Microsoft has vetted the developer of the software, and has some level of trust with that developer. Prior to Windows 10, any software could be download from the internet and installed without any verification. If you didn’t download the software directly from the manufacturers’ website, it is possible the download included malicious software included with it.
  • Emails
    • You receive emails from multiple sources daily. Depending on how many sites you frequent, surveys you completed, contests you entered into you could be receiving 100’s of emails per day. If the contest is over, you are no longer completing the surveys, or you are no longer shopping at certain sites, you can and should unsubscribe from those emails to free up the clutter in your inbox.
    • You have heard of spam and phishing emails. When reviewing the emails in your inbox, you want to ensure that you are not just clicking through without reading the email. Pay attention to the details of the email
      • You receive an email about updating your PayPal security questions/answers to your gmail.com account, but your actual PayPal account is associated with your yahoo.com account.
      • If you look at the From address, make sure it is from @paypal.com and not from @paypil.jp.com
      • Just because you receive an email from your friend Steve doesn’t mean you shouldn’t verify that it is truly from him. Call and check. Spam / Spoofed emails are a threat vector and bad guys may have Steve’s email addressed spoofed to gain access to your system.
  • Camera’s / webcams
    • If you aren’t actively using it, simply place a piece of tape over the camera. Disabling it is better, but the tape will at least prevent your environment from being broadcast if your system does get compromised.

Mac

  • Manufacturer Updates
    • Apple is great about including these updates into their OS builds.
  •  Updates
    • If you aren’t checking on a regular basis (monthly at least) for updates through the App Store on your Apple system,  then you are missing out on necessary security and performance updates.
  • Security
    • Apple has done well to force you to create a separate user account when you first sign into your Mac OS X system. This is a good practice, though you want to ensure that account does not have full admin rights to the system without providing admin password for system changes.
    • Firewall
      • Within System Preferences, ensure that the firewall is turned on and blocking all unnecessary traffic.
    • Anti malicious software
      • The threat vector for Apple systems is increasing as their market share does. There is nothing installed from the OS build that takes care of anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spyware, anti-grayware; you will need to install a 3rd party product to take care of that.
  • Backups
    • Time machine is about as simple/effective backup solution that is out on the market. Plug in your external HDD and allow the time necessary for time machine to back up your system. This solution allows for expedient and easy backups and a vast (only restricted by the number of backup jobs ran) ability to restore the system, folders, or files.
  • Applications
    • While you can download applications from the internet (not recommended unless from the software developer directly) or you can use the App Store to obtain verified software. Remember that once you install X version of the software, you should still keep it up to date as the manufacturer releases updates.
  • Emails
    • You receive emails from multiple sources daily. Depending on how many sites you frequent, surveys you completed, contests you entered into you could be receiving 100’s of emails per day. If the contest is over, you are no longer completing the surveys, or you are no longer shopping at certain sites, you can and should unsubscribe from those emails to free up the clutter in your inbox.
    • You have heard of spam and phishing emails. When reviewing the emails in your inbox, you want to ensure that you are not just clicking through without reading the email. Pay attention to the details of the email
      • You receive an email about updating your PayPal security questions/answers to your gmail.com account, but your actual PayPal account is associated with your yahoo.com account.
      • If you look at the From address, make sure it is from @paypal.com and not from @paypil.jp.com
      • Just because you receive an email from your friend Steve doesn’t mean you shouldn’t verify that it is truly from him. Call and check. Spam / Spoofed emails are a threat vector and bad guys may have Steve’s email addressed spoofed to gain access to your system.
  • Camera’s / webcams
    • If you aren’t actively using it, simply place a piece of tape over the camera. Disabling it is better, but the tape will at least prevent your environment from being broadcast if your system does get compromised.

Nothing on Linux this time, as most of you Linux folks already know all the right things to do with your systems.

We already covered Home Wifi best practices so I will send you back to that article for more information about home WiFi. We have already covered passwords as well, so please refer back to that as needed.

Most of these practices apply to tablets and cell phones as well. Ensure that you are applying updates to your other devices. These will help to offer security, fix application bugs as well as improve performance on your devices.

Having smart technology is great, being smarter about your technology is better.

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