Spring cleanup

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Now that spring has finally arrived, it’s a good reminder to think about spring cleaning.  Not just the house, but about your computers.  Whether it’s for business or just personal use, we use our computers for just about everything imaginable, and so they are huge targets for hackers to find lots of juicy information or simply take over your computer.  If you can clean up a bit you can lower your risks.

Without making this a book, this is just tip of the iceberg for you.  Most people think of having an anti-virus and they are fine, and maybe doing Windows updates.  Or maybe they have a Mac and think they don’t have to do anything.  The problem is hackers are not viruses, they exploit vulnerabilities in outdated programs.  The goes for Windows, Mac, Linux, and smart phones of all types.  Any device that connects to the Internet for that matter, but that’s outside the scope of this article.

Think of each program as a door or window into your home or office. The more programs you have installed, the more ports are open, which means the more doors for a hacker to get in through.  The older the program, the weaker the lock on the door. You need to remove unused programs and continuously update all your other programs.

If there are updates available for that program, the hackers already know why there are updates.  The reason is to patch known vulnerabilities.  Think about it, they are “Known” vulnerabilities.  We don’t have to find a way to get in, the software vendor already pointed out their flaws for everyone to see, now it’s up to you, the end user, to patch those vulnerabilities ASAP!  Failure to patch these updates before a hacker checks you out, can mean your network is compromised, and even if you patch after the fact, it’s too late, they are already in.

A good hacker covers their tracks and patches your network for you to make sure no other hacker gets in.  They want your computers to themselves.  maybe to serve as part of their BotNet, or for other reasons.  This is why so many people see their computers working well and assume they are fine.  You may never know if a hacker is in your network without spending tens of thousands of dollars in experts to search through your entire network for signs they may never find if the hacker is good enough and covered their tracks.

If you suspect a hacker is in your computer, the only way to be sure 100% it’s clean is to format the hard drive and reinstall everything.  If you are a business, you should get on a regular maintenance plan to at least lower the risks, in addition to other benefits on doing maintenance, but security is a big part of it.

If you’re not a business, knowledge is power, protect yourself with a good anti-virus program such as AVG CloudCare and run your Windows updates and check for other programs requiring updates that pop up which are more obvious such as Java, Adobe Reader, Apple iCloud and other not so obvious programs depending what you have installed.

Every little bit helps, anything you can do is better than nothing.  At the same time, no matter what you do, if someone wants into your computer or network bad enough, they will eventually get in.  It’s just a matter of how quickly can you detect if they got in and how fast can you get them out before serious damage occurs.