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« Art Business: The Brain and Face of Your Art Business | Main | A.C.T. Featured Artists: How Professional Artists Direct Their Art Business »

Technology: Securing Your Computer

Computer lockdown

This month's theme is Direction. Aletta has talked about How Professional Artists Direct Their Art Business. If you haven't read it yet, you're missing a lot of juicy info that will shave tons off your marketing learning curve.

You are reading this article on some kind of digital device (computer, laptop, tablet, phone, touchscreen device). Now imagine that it has disappeared and you have no idea where it is or how to run your business without it. Time to call the Director of Security. Oh wait, that would be you!

We are so used to using our computers and other devices that they have become invisible. But ask anyone who's had a computer stolen or had nasty malware spread spam to everyone in their address book, and I'll bet they have added a few precautions.

Of course, nothing is 100% effective, but there are some simple (and not so simple) things you can do.

First Things First: 

  • Choose the best (and most secure) browser for you.

  • Be careful what you download and never click on links in emails from someone you don't personally know. If you pick up a virus that way, it can can go around your antivirus software and wreak havoc with your computer and personal information. When I get an email from the bank or credit card company, I open a browser window and go directly to their website to check it out.

  • Keep your operating systems and software on your computer and digital devices up to date. That includes antivirus and antispyware software which you should be using. I set my computer to automatically notify me when there is an update. After I take a peek at what it is, I download and install it immediately. They often contain fixes for security vulnerabilities.

Prevent Unauthorized Access

  • One of the easiest: Use a screen saver and put a password on it to stop anyone around you from getting into trouble on your computer. Mine kicks in if I've been inactive for more than five minutes.

  • Next easiest: use strong passwords: Make `em long, with letters and numbers, some capitalized. Change them often. You may want to look into Password Managers to help you securely keep track of them all. Don't forget to password protect your files that contain sensitive and/or private info, and add a password to your network.

  • Backups: All your file or data backups should be password-protected and/or encrypted. If a file on your computer has a password, the backup file will too. We use a redundant system of external hard drive and encrypted cloud backup.

  • Cover your computer camera. There are reports that cameras on computers are being activated remotely (and not by you!). Put a sticky note over it when you're not using it or hang a piece of cardboard from a piece of tape and flip it up to use your camera.

Authorized Access Only

  • If you can, have a dedicated computer for business. It's no fun to find that your computer is dead because someone spilled a drink into it, dropped it, or visited a less-than-OK website resulting in a virus or other attack on your computer.

  • Keep your firewall turned on, it helps protect you from hackers.

  • If someone else uses your computer, set up separate user accounts, so they don't have access to your documents and mail. Set their user account for limited Internet access if it's one of your kids, and enforce a "no food or drinks near the computer" rule.

  • Super users: Look into encryption software (or get tech help) to protect what's on your computer. Some experts feel it's worth it, some don't. Again, nothing is 100% guaranteed but PC World says, "If your encryption software uses a recognized and respected standard such as AES or Blowfish, and you use strong passwords and take other precautions" then you're in good shape.  

Lost and Found 

  • When you travel, don't leave your laptop out in your hotel room. No, not between the mattresses either. Remove temptation by leaving your laptop and digital devices in the room safe or carry them with you.

  • Activate "find my phone/find my computer" features of your operating systems. If possible, set it to "wipe" clean your device if you can't quickly locate and retrieve it. You will be able to restore from your backups.

Even a security guard who walks a building can only check one room at a time, so start with the easiest and work your way through the list one step at a time.  Google the terms you're not familiar with for more info from reliable websites (like the FBI, not "shadyjoe's" website).  

If you need to call for backup, you know where to find me.

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