Making good Mondays is like making coffee -

The week is before us - like the coffee pot - waiting to brew. Making it good is a matter of choice, luck, creativity, patience and acceptance of the outcome.

Currently at Making Good Mondays

Active elements on this page: Occasionally I will publish a new blog post, but I write mostly at other sites.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Computer Security

Cyber security is a field unto itself, mysterious until you get into it a little bit. I am a novice at it. Fortunately the Department of Homeland Security has a really good website called, "US-CERT: United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team." It is a great page of tips on how to stay computer-safe.

This summary, "The Net's Real Security Problem," is from a Scientific American Article in 2006. It is undoubtedly already out of date, but is still a very helpful overview: To quote:

Even casually savvy computer users these days know to beware of security threats on the Internet. They know that the online universe is a-crawl with computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other malicious bits of code, and if they are prudent, they have equipped their computers with up-to-date anti-virus and firewall software for repelling these invaders. They are leery of unsolicited e-mail attachments, and careful about the web sites they visit. They have probably heard about (or experienced) "denial of service" attacks in which malicious hackers direct thousands of computers to bombard a company's servers with requests to shut them down. They probably even know not to fall for "phishing" scams in which hyperlinks take users to phony sites posing as legitimate banks and credit card companies for the purpose of stealing passwords and account information.

What few in the public realize, however, is that the Internet is vulnerable to much deeper levels of fraud-ones that exploit fundamental security gaps in the network protocols themselves. These attacks, often called "pharming," are all but impossible for individuals to guard against or even detect. They represent a growing threat to personal, corporate and national security that the federal government needs to address urgently.

My own security tool box contains these software items --

1) Norton 360 by Symantec. It has turned out to be the best anti-virus program with all in one protection. I have renewed my service annually for several years now, at around $50 per year and have never had a breach that caused me a problem.

2) Advanced SystemCare Free/100% Freeware. This really does work. It is updated often and offers a professional version with a few more bells and whistles. Their promo says,

"A Click A Day For Computer Repair, Protection & Optimization. This comprehensive PC-care utility has a one-click approach. Advanced SystemCare Free helps protect, optimize, clean, and repair your computer and Registry –– with daily use."

My toolbox tips and tricks include these that I have found useful over the years:

  • Use "strong" passwords. This University of Texas at Austin link has several security tips in addition to how to make a strong password. I use a strong password to boot up the program of my notebook, even though it stays at home and I am the only one who uses it.

  • I use different web browsers and three E-mail addresses. My AT&T Yahoo web browser (used only for e-mail work) has relatively good protections built in. There is an automatic anti-virus scan of every e-mail attachment, for instance. I have three different e-mail addresses: One that I call "public" for online communication, newsletters, memberships, etc. I have another "private" account only for friends and family. And I have a "misc." G-mail address because it is short and easy and has a huge amount of storage. For my blogging browser, I use Mozilla Firefox which has some rather good built-in protections for its plug-ins. Occasionally I use Google's Chrome because is is very clean and simple, and lightning fast. It "crashes" rather easily, but the early security problems with this new browser have now been fixed. Internet Explorer feels outmoded to me.

  • I do not store my screen names and passwords on my computer. I do not do any banking online. We do buy airline tickets online, from the airline or from Expedia. I have bought pet medicines and flowers online. And I pay for Norton 360 online.

  • Your computer is subject to search and or seizure without a warrant when you enter of leave the country. So, if you must take it with you, go online to a number of websites to find out how to minimize the risk to your data and privacy. It is highly dicey deal.

  • I confess. Here are some things I do that I do not recommend, if you want to be ultra safe: I use a standard screen name and password for sites that I have to sign in to every time, or I let the computer remember it in for me. I probably use too many toolbars, notorious for spyware. However, Advanced System Care does a good job of removing spyware and keeping my computer running speedily. I do not back up my data as often as I should, or keep the back-up stored off site. But I do not use my notebook except at home, and I am retired and here most of the time.

And finally, "When donating computer, erase hard drive" is a good article from (8/25/08) News. To quote:

The safest thing is to do a secure erase of the entire hard drive. You can find free tools at and by searching for "secure erase" or "secure delete."

Here are a few cyber security news tidbits from that same above article :

IBM recently released some disturbing statistics in its twice-yearly X-Force IT security report.

Most critically, 94 percent of all browser-related online hacker exploits occur within 24 hours of a system vulnerability being disclosed to the public, according to the report.

. . . In the first six months of 2008, about 78 percent of Web browser exploits targeted browser plug-ins.

References for cyber security:

  1. - "National Cyber Security Alliance"

  2. Wired: Threat Level - "News on Privacy, Security, Politics and Crime Online"

  3. Scientific American - "How to foil 'Phishing' scams"

My topical post today at South by Southwest and The Reaction is about politics.

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betmo said...

some good free ware i use- antivir antivirus protection and crapcleaner at

i also run ad-aware for spyware weekly. we use the mozilla browser because it has decent security. hubby has really good security at work since he deals with the financial industry- and we know how much they like to keep other people's money safe :)

Carol Gee said...

betmo, thanks for these additions. I visited the linked site and found its design a good metaphor for their name. I was impressed with its good clean and attractive design, no pun intended. I'll bet hubby's customers are glad he's there to look to their safety.
Namaste, my friend.

Spadoman said...

I use Apple computer equipment. The threat is virtually eliminated. But I also have common sense. "If a deal seems too good, it probably is" is old advice, but will save you from most security problems just by hitting delete. But our human nature gets the better of us as we open e-mails wondering who it is that wants to talk to "me".

The other thing that I don't understand is the need for people, who choose to forward jokes, to just pass theirs, and many other e-mail addresses and even phone numbers and addresses of people, along with the joke. If I was an enterprising young man, I'd save these e-mail addys and make a data base of them and sell them to the people who send out those "my uncle died and left a zillion dollars in a US bank and I need you to give me your bank info so I can give it to you" ads. I mean, does anybody answer these and believe them? They must. And as long as they do, there will be a security problem.

Carol Gee said...

Howdy there, Spadoman.
I would have guessed you are an Apple man.
I use your "just delete" if not sure of an e-mail. I do open the spam mailbox, however, before emptying it. This is because I have caught a few important misroutes (real e-mails I wanted) there.
Your last paragraph about the forwards is spot on. I never thought about this before. When I forward something I have been deleting all the multiples and names and addresses, but I was doing it just to make the forward cleaner and shorter. Now I know it had other benefits.
By the way, now I know not to forward you anything, not even my BEST STUFF. Are you sure you don't want the one about what the little boy said to his Sunday school teacher? :-)
Namaste, my friend.

Robb Thurston said...

You seem to be very security and privacy aware. I do NOT use Chrome, because it is spyware, and if there are fixes, still suspicious. Why not use Iron browser, instead? Iron lacks nothing desirable in Chrome except Google shoulder surfing with you.
I am writing this with Iron browser. srware-iron-021520-installer.htm - 31k - Cached - Similar pages

Carol Gee said...

Robb, Thanks for the info. Now I understand what they have been saying about Chrome. I will try Iron. Thanks much


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References on Spirituality -- Favorites from my old collection

  • "A Return To Love: Reflections On the Principles Of a Course In Miracles" by Marianne Williamson. Harper Collins, 1992
  • "A World Waiting To Be Born: Civility Rediscovered" by M. Scott Peck. Simon and Schuster, 1993
  • "Chicken Soup For the Unsinkable Soul" by Canfield, Hansen and McNamara. Health Communications, 1999
  • "Compassion in Action: Setting Out On the Path of Service" by Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush. Bell Tower Pub., 1992
  • "Creative Visualization" by Shakti Gawain. MIF Books, 1978
  • "Finding Values That Work: The Search For Fulfillment" by Brian O'Connell. Walker & Co., 1978
  • "Fire in the Soul" by Joan Borysenko. Warner Books, 1993
  • "Further Along the Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck. Simon and Schuster, 1993
  • "Guilt Is the Teacher, Love Is the Lesson" by Joan Borysenko. Warner Books, 1990
  • "Inner Simplicity: 100 Ways To Regain Peace and Nourish the Soul" by Elaine St. James. Hyperion, 1995
  • "Insearch:Psychology and Religion" by James Hillman. Spring Pub. 1994
  • "Man's Search For Himself" by Rollo May. Signet Books, 1953
  • "Mythologies" by William Butler Yeats. Macmillan, 1959
  • "Myths, Dreams and Religion" by Joseph Campbell. Spring Pub. 1988
  • "Passion for Life: Psychology and the Human Spirit" by John and Muriel James. Penguin Books, 1991
  • "Peace Is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hahn. Bantam Books , 1991
  • "The Heroine's Journey" by Mureen Murdock. Random House, 1990
  • "The Hope For Healing Human Evil" by M. Scott Peck. Simon and Schuster, 1983
  • "The House of Belonging" poems by David Whyte. Many Rivers Press, 2004
  • "The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth" by M.Scott Peck. Simon and Schuster, 1978
  • "The Soul's Code: In Search Of Character and Calling" by James Hillman. Random House, 1996
  • "The World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought" by Jaroslav Pelikan. Little, Brown & Co., 1990
  • "Unconditional Life" by Deepak Chopra. Bantam Books, 1992
  • "Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Hyperion, 1994
  • "Zen Keys: A Guide to Zen Practice" by Thich Nhat Hahn. Doubleday Dell Pub. Group, 1974

About Me

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A retired counselor, I am equal parts Techie and Artist. I am a Democrat who came to the Southwest to attend college. I married, had kids and have lived here all my adult life.