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
Especially software that touches the
Why? This keeps things
from automatically installing without asking you
Your operating system updates:
- Windows Update
- Mac Software
- Chrome (preferred)
- Firefox / Microsoft Edge (second choice)
- Internet Explorer or
Safari (Last - only use for trusted sites)
Programs that are launched from the Web
- 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)
trust windows/popups telling you there's an update if it's coming from
the systray on windows
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
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
open an attachment in an E-mail
If you break this rule, you need to be able to identify a
file types: .txt, pictures (.jpg, .gif, .tif,
.tiff, .png etc.)
Possibly dangerous/safe file types: .doc(x), .xls(x), .pdf,
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
click a web link (URL) in an E-mail
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
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.
open a program from your Web browser (Internet)
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.
Number 3: Antivirus is your last line of
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
NOTE: There's lots
involvement into NSA tool disclosures, so don't use it if you're a government intelligence officer.
finally…if in doubt, call David. (770) 778-1672 :-)
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