Computer security often isn’t thought about until a problem arises – and at that point, a break in security can cause harmful and potentially major problems. Because we all want to keep our computers and information safe, we asked our former Network Administrator, Tyler Lesmeister (TL), some questions about potential security issues and how you can prevent them from happening to you.
Why is computer security important?
TL: Computer security is important, primarily to keep your information protected. It’s also important for your computer’s overall health, helping to prevent viruses and malware and helping programs run more smoothly.
What are the most common computer security threats?
TL: One big threat is when people aren’t careful when installing freeware. For example, they might download a free desktop application and unknowingly install spyware or a browser toolbar along with the application. Typically, these free applications will have a check box during installation that some people don’t pay attention to which allows the spyware or toolbars to be installed. In many cases, this spyware can track everything you do in your web browser – and these toolbars can potentially slow your entire system down.
Another big threat is people opening unknown attachments and links in emails. These attachments and links can potentially add viruses and other malware to your system.
What are some computer security threats I wouldn’t necessarily know about?
TL: People might visit a website that isn’t secure and enter their personal information on it. You can tell when a website isn’t secure or safe when the https header in the URL is red and crossed out.
Here’s what a safe one looks like. You can see the https:// is green, meaning it’s secure:
Here’s what an unsafe one looks like. Notice the https:// is red, meaning there are security issues being detected with this website.
Note: The above images are from Google Chrome and are not identical to other web browsers; however, the warnings are similar.
Another example is when companies impersonate other companies. For example, someone might impersonate PayPal. They’ll email you saying they need a new password and bring you to a dummy site. Once you enter your information, they have your password and can access your actual PayPal account.
How can I protect my computer from these threats? Are there certain programs you recommend installing?
TL: The biggest thing is to be aware of what websites you visit, what links you’re clicking on, what you’re entering your information into, and what you’re downloading.
Wondering about your own website’s security or have other website-related questions? Reach out to one of our web developers any time, or check out our development blogs for more insight on website development topics.