Security Considerations When Purchasing a New Machine

security-breachSo you have decided to purchase a new computer.  These days that could be a regular personal computer, a laptop, a tablet device and a smartphone. Some smartphones are capable of  doing the same as the larger computers.

Whatever the device, you need to consider how to operate that device safely and securely and to protect that investment from harm. That calls for some planning before you make that purchase.  Safe operation of the device is determined by the procedures you follow (the good habits) and the technology you use. Here are a few tips to consider before you purchase that device.

When buying your device please check to ensure that the operating system is a current one that will be supported by the makers for the expected life of your machine. You should not purchase operating systems that will soon be retired or there is no on-going organised support from the vendor. Part of the support given by the makers is the publishing of updates to the operating systems that fixes bugs in the software as well as security holes. Bugs and security holes can be ways that hackers may gain access to  your system and capture passwords, personal information such  birthdates, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, pictures as well as names and email addresses of persons in your address book and who you may communicate with or do business with.  They may also gain access to intellectual property such as drawings, ideas for a business, designs, software you may be developing for sale.

Also ensure that you get a legal copy of the operating system software and all the software you plan to use and not pirated versions. Genuine copies of software should come with an official OEM certificates. This ensures that you won’t receive message from the software manufacturer stating that your software is illegal and that your software can be updated as the releases are made from the manufacturer. Valid copies of the software can also keep you out of trouble with the law so you won’t have to face charges of piracy.

Illegal copies of software can be the source of viruses, trojans, spyware and other malware which will be downloaded along with the pirated software and result in your machine being hacked and subject to those things mentioned earlier.

There are some basic and vital protection software tools you need to have. These would include a firewall, antivirus, antispyware and antimalware. These should be loaded on all devices and we must not buy into the notion that a particular device is safe and does not need these. All devices and software regardless of the brand will have some flaws and holes that may be exploited by determined hackers.

A firewall controls the traffic that comes in and out of the machine based on rules you set. It acts like a bridge between your machine and other networks or machines and is critical to protect you from unsafe networks like the internet. Your operating system may come with a firewall but if it does not then y ensure that you purchase a software firewall for your machine for protection. The firewall must also configured and turned on to have that level of protection. Seek the help of a professional to ensure the firewall is properly configured and to show you how it works.

Antivirus software is used to prevent, detect and remove viruses worms, trojan horses and a host of other software that hackers will cause to be installed on your machine. This software is intended to do harm to your machine and you and has gained the name malware.  There are many popular brands of antivirus on the market and many free ones available on the internet which are produced by less than creditable companies.  The important thing in acquiring an antivirus solution is that the company is legitimate; the antivirus is updated on a regular basis and uses heuristics to detect malicious code in harmful software. Again seek the advice of a trained professional to advise on the antivirus solution and the ensure that it is properly configured to give its intended protection.

Antispyware and antimalware are software dedicated to removing spyware and other destructive programs which can monitor the activities on your computer and gather information about the user of the computer as well as any data and send it to the hacker who may be located as close as next door or as far away as the other side of the earth. The information collected can range from the websites your surf to keystrokes you type on your machine and usually happens without the user’s knowledge and consent.  They can also open your machine to be controlled by other persons and that machine can be used to attack other computer users be it on the internet or in companies and to steal, commit fraud or other illegal activities. It is quite possible that you may find yourself in the middle of a crime investigation.  These malware programs can cause great inconvenience and deny you the use of the machine you would have brought for your own purposes.

Some antimalware and antispyware may come as part of the antivirus solutions but it is recommended that you get dedicated solutions based on the advice of a trained professional and have the solutions installed and configured by that professional.

You must plan to be able to access your information in the event your machine crashes for any reason and the data cannot be recovered from the hard disk.  A backup and recovery solution will allow you to  recover the data as of your last backup. Plan to purchase an external hard drive to backup your machine and its data at regular intervals. A daily backup may be needed for some persons while others can suffice with a weekly backup. Most operating systems come with some built in backup software but it is best to get a specialised package to do you backups.

A genuine surge suppressor and not a multi outlet strip would offer protection form power surges and brown outs. Sudden changes in power can cause data corruption and destroy the machine hardware. While the hardware may be replaced some if not all the data may only be recoverable if you have a backup solution in place like the one mentioned earlier.

Once you have purchased that device ensure that you load the protective software and have it configured before you start to surf the internet and load other programs. You should also have the protective solutions configured to run scans and to do updates at regular intervals so that your machine remains current and reduces the number of areas open to exploitation by hackers.

But those are only the start of protecting your machine and your data. The next important piece is the habits your practice when using your machine.

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