David's 3 Rules to Staying Safe on a Computer

David's 3 Rules to Staying Safe on a Computer

Here's David’s 3 rules of staying safe on a computer. It's my attempt at distilling my 25+ years of experience and knowledge down into some simple rules to live by in the digital realm. 

Rule Number 1: Keep all software patched and up to date

Especially software that touches the internet. 
Why? This keeps things from automatically installing without asking you first

Your operating system updates: 

  • Windows Update
  • Mac Software update
Web Browser:

  1. Chrome (preferred)
  2. Firefox / Microsoft Edge (second choice)
  3. Internet Explorer or Safari (Last - only use for trusted sites)

Programs that are launched from the Web Browser/internet

  • Uninstall Java if you don’t need it (or are unsure). If it’s installed, you have to ALWAYS keep it updated.
  • PDF reader (Adobe Reader especially - Set it to install automatically. Preferably don't use Adobe, because it's an old/big/slow PDF software. Use foxit reader or another)

Only trust windows/popups telling you there's an update if it's coming from the systray on windows

If you're browsing the web and something tells you to update xyz DON'T trust it! Close all your web browsers completely. If you're not sure if you need to update something search to find the latest version. If in doubt, ask .

Rule Number 2: Don’t click/download/install anything from the internet, especially if you didn’t go looking for it.

You are probably going to break this rule - if you KNOW what's safe that's good. If you don't know what's safe read this section carefully, ask a question if you don't understand.
Why? Viruses are going to come from the internet in many different ways (and those ways are always changing). This rule is about stopping you from opening xyz bad thing that was sent to xyz place. 

***The most often heard mistake I hear from clients that have contacted me about a virus/spyware infection was that they knew/recognized the person they got infected from. You will receive viruses with people's names you know/recognize in the From: field of an E-mail


Never open an attachment in an E-mail

If you break this rule, you need to be able to identify a file extension.

Safe file types: .txt, pictures (.jpg, .gif, .tif, .tiff, .png etc.)
Possibly dangerous/safe file types: .doc(x), .xls(x), .pdf, .zip 
Dangerous file types:  .js, .jse, .exe, .vbs, .com, .scr and basically everything else not listed as above. If in doubt, it's dangerous.  Full list of others here
If you're not sure about an attachment upload it to https://www.virustotal.com/ to see what 60+ Antivirus software packages think about it

If you break this rule, you need to be able to: Understand there's a difference between what the URL looks like on the screen, and knowing where it actually takes you when you click it. Use the popup or bottom left corner of the window to see where it’s going to take you BEFORE you click. Here's a test: http://www.microsoft.com . If you think that link is going to take you to the Microsoft website you are wrong ! Once you can tell it's not Microsoft go ahead and click it, read some more information about URL's.

If you're on a mobile device you'll have to copy the URL BEFORE you click on it and paste it into a note/text window to be able to see it. Clicking and following a fake/phishing link will usually communicate that you don't know how to be safe, and will possibly cause you to get more phishing/scam E-mails.

How to read a URL

Before you open an attachment or click a link in an E-mail give it a sniff test: https://www.davidthegeek.com/portal/kb/articles/evaluating-e-mail-messages-scam-or-no-scam

Web Browser

Never open a program from your Web browser (Internet)
If you get a UAC Dialog asking Yes or No or prompting for your computer Username and password stop! The program creating this prompt will have the ability to do anything it wants to your computer, write/delete files, send E-mail’s as you, collect your Windows Username and password etc. 

Rule Number 3: Antivirus is your last line of defense

You shouldn't need it unless you have broken either Rule 1 or 2 (I don't use it on my computers).  However if it's needed it will only catch between 95-98% of viruses. The 2-5% of viruses that it misses is usually the latest virus and the one you're clicking on right now.
You need to: Know what Anti-virus software you already have installed on your computer
You need to: Be able to identify if a program window is a window from a locally installed program, or a web browser window faked to look like a program window.Use the icon in the taskbar for the active window to tell what program it is.
Choice of Antivirus software:
  • Free, Simple, low overhead (doesn't slow your computer down much): Built into Windows 10/11 - Microsoft Defender 
  • Free, Complex, more overhead slowing computer down more - Ads in software trying to get you to upgrade to the paid version: Kaspersky Security Cloud
  • Paid, Complex, consistently most effective AV software for the click-a-holic: Kaspersky Antivirus
NOTE: There's lots of news about Kaspersky's involvement into NSA tool disclosures, so don't use it if you're a government intelligence officer.
And finally…if in doubt, call David. (770) 778-1672 :-)

    • Related Articles

    • Buying a new computer

      Picking out a laptop in the sea of options can be tricky. Here's my tips to limit the choices and find one: Information/Decisions to put together (print this to help) Existing amount of stored data (Right click c: drive on current computer and see ...
    • Regular Computer Maintenance - The Recurring Computer Todo List

      Here's the standard list of what you need to do to keep your computer at optimum health: Daily Updating Operating system with any new patches Update software, especially anything that touches the internet like: Web Browser PDF Reading software Email ...
    • Enhancing your Computer Efficiency - Highlighting and Clipboard Cut/Copy/Paste

      About the most valuable lessons you can ever learn about your computer is highlighting and copy/cut/paste. If there's nothing else that you take with you, that's the most important thing I could ever teach you. It'll literally save days of your life ...
    • Your Digital Life Checklist

      Do you know? David's 3 Rules to Staying safe - Everyone should know this https://www.davidthegeek.com/portal/kb/articles/david-s-3-rules-to-staying-safe-on-a-computer 5 Passwords of Life - How to deal with passwords safely/easily ...
    • What is security? Am I secure?

      Since a picture is worth 1000 words, lets make this easier to understand. Pick your place on the red line. Security Graph