JULY 2012: Hopping away from your computer for a bit? In need of a cup o’ joe or a chat at the water cooler? Here are 10 easy, smart, low-tech security musts that take only a few seconds and can save you (and your employer) a boatload of problems.
1) Lock your computer screen. It’s easy to keep people out and require a password for reentry. For Windows, use the ‘Windows Key’ + the ‘L’ key, and for Macs, set your preferences then put your computer to sleep (using “hot corners” is fastest).
2) Lock your actual computer. Stolen laptops make headlines and major inconveniences. Security cables are cheap (starting around $20) and it’s a lot harder to swipe a laptop if it’s connected to a table or chair.
3) Don’t leave passwords lying around. Not on sticky notes, not under your keyboard, not in your friend’s memory — keep them secret, really. And the more characters your passwords have, the better.
4) Don’t leave storage devices lying around. Got a thumb drive sticking out of your computer? Mighty tempting.
5) Shred. Dumpster diving may be gross but it’s also popular. Many waste management companies don’t use locking dumpsters so be careful what you throw away. After taking all sorts of high-tech precautions, that little note you wrote to yourself or that CD you’re done with could do you in.
6) Check the printer. Did you print something out and forget about it? While you’re at it, check the scanner, too.
7) Check your desktop. Your analog desktop, that is. Are there sensitive documents laying around? How about next to your laptop as you work in the coffee shop? Hide important stuff and if it’s really important, put it under lock and key when you’re not using it. Same goes for your external hard drive.
8) Beware of shoulder surfing. What nerve they have, those visual eavesdroppers who watch you enter sensitive information, like passwords. But it happens every day. Wait until the coast is clear or position yourself so your keyboard and screen can’t be seen.
9) Use password protected WiFi hotspots. If the network you’re on didn’t require a password to sign in, it means your computer is vulnerable while you’re online. Hacking software makes it a breeze to see your cookies and other online activities, and assume your identity, too.
10) Don’t be too polite. We want to be friendly frogs but always remember “The Scorpion and the Frog” fable. In case you forgot, it didn’t end well. Be careful about sharing information, especially since those who excel at “social engineering,” which is tech speak for “con games,” take advantage of human nature, such as our propensity to answer questions when asked.