Basic Security Steps for Home or Home Office PCs and Laptops

I do applications training (Excel, Access, PowerPoint and so on) for the staff of a Major Metropolitan University via a Leading Training Provider. As part of the introductory part of the session, we have a security postcard to discuss, to raise staff awareness of security issues and good practices at home. The ultimate aim is to reduce the incidence of threats to the work environment entering from the home PC or laptop.

This leads to a general discussion of security issues.

For basic security, I recommend you cover the following points:-

  • Install an Anti Virus/Anti Spyware Suite, scan regularly and update it regularly
  • Activate Windows Firewall or the the Firewall from your security suite
  • Set Windows update to automatic or run it regularly
  • Backup – see below
  • Update other key software – look in Help menu for “Check for Updates” option. Adobe routinely release updates of Acrobat Reader and Flash Player.

Backups

  • A USB key or memory stick is not a backup – it is a good tool for transferring data but they can be lost, stolen or damaged and have a limited life span – it’s a big limit – but it is still limited.
  • External Hard Drive -starter level backup,  increasingly affordable, look for one that comes with some backup software. An external HDD is the place to start your backup routine.
  • Network Attached Storage (NAS) – A NAS is a device that is essentially a small simple PC designed as a storage device to be attached to a small home or home office network. Look for a NAS that can be fitted with two identical hard drives. This allows you to set up a RAID array – where one disk is a mirror image – a duplicate – of the other. You back up to one drive – the data is automatically duplicated to the second drive. This is to protect you if  one drive fails. NAS devices are becoming increasingly modest in price and can be found with drives installed ready to go.  A little more involved to use than an external HDD, but you can connect PCs or laptops to your home network and back up from multiple devices.
  • Online  backup service. If you have a fire or are burgled you can still loose your data. I couldn’t afford a good fire-proof and heat resistant (so your media don’t melt in a fire), so I have used an Online  backup service for some time. My data is backed up across the web and stored in encrypted form. Some ISPs offer on line storage. I use Jungle Disk myself and recommend it. I do not have a  Carbonite account but have heard good reports on it for end users. Cost of both services is very affordable and have good synchronise and backup options. Please note the uploaded data will count towards any broadband data limits you may have.

When specifying your next PC, discuss with your supplier installing a RAID array for your internal storage as well. Most modern motherboards support RAID and the cost of an additional hard drive is small. Setting up a RAID array is most easily done when your system is initially being set up. There are a few forms of RAID array, make sure you are getting RAID  1 , which mirrors the data to the second drive, providing redundancy in the event of drive failure.

Sources of Software/Suites

Geek Option

For more in depth discussion of Internet Security Issues – I listen to and recommend the Security Now podcast.

Steven