By Bob Bunge, Associate Professor, College of Engineering & Information Sciences, DeVry University
The Internet can be a scary place. Every day we read about hackers taking over computers, stealing identities, and accessing personal information. Experts are always warning us about these dangers. So what can a typical person do to be safe on the Internet? In truth, everyday computer users can do a lot to improve their own Internet security. The key to the situation is to see the problem from all angles and have a simple plan of action outlining the necessary steps to address it. A handy checklist for Internet security can be summed up in the phrase ARTS: Assets, Risks, Tools, and Strategies.
Assets refers to the valuable information you keep online. If your home computer is connected to the Internet, your local hard drive is online too! Your financial information, family photos, contact lists, music downloads, precious memories – all those things you would hate to lose –are your assets. Step one is to write them all down and be aware of what you have to lose!
Risks refers to threats and dangers to your assets. Risk is a combination of external danger (like hackers) and internal danger (like bad passwords). You can’t control the hackers, but you can control the strength of your own defenses against them. The less you do to deter hackers, the more your assets are at risk.
Tools includes computer security products (like anti-virus) and positive practices (like backing up your data). To strengthen your information defenses, you need to use a variety of tools and techniques. But if you buy every security product out there and install them all at once, you will actually make your system weaker!
Tools by themselves won’t work. To use them effectively, you need Strategies. One such strategy is “defense in depth.” That means, never count on just one thing to protect your data. Instead, build your defenses in layers. That way, if one tool fails, others are there to back it up.
Panic is not an action plan! If the news about hackers has you worried, practice the ARTS! List your assets. Identify the risks. Compare available tools. Learn about strategies. Then, when you put the pieces together, you will have a sensible and workable approach to computer security.
Robert (Bob) Bunge is an associate professor in the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University. He has nearly ten years of teaching experience in computer information systems, network security and simulation development. As a cyber security and cloud computing expert, Bunge has presented on various subjects at numerous events, including the NWSec Conference and the Washington Association for Skilled and Technical Sciences Conference.Tags: Bob Bunge, cyber attacks, cyber security, DeVry University, new year