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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features May 22, 2015

4/20/2013 9:58:00 PM
3 steps to protecting your computer
Prescott Computer Society

Q: I hear about all the viruses and worms that attack people's computers. What can I do to protect my new computer?

A: There are three steps that you must take in order to minimize the likelihood of computer disasters. First, be sure there is a good anti-virus -program installed and that it is running and being updated at least every day. Many rely on what comes preloaded with their computer, usually a short trial of McAfee or Norton, after which you must begin paying annually, or the updates stop. The virus definitions list that every anti-virus program uses must update daily. We suggest uninstalling the trial anti-virus software before the end of the trial period, and installing a good free anti-virus, such as Avast ( Avast will update automatically at least once, and usually more than once per day.

Second, have a good anti-malware program installed and ready to use when needed. A good bet for this program is Malwarebytes, which will "detect and remove all traces of malware including worms, trojans, rootkits, rogues, dialers, spyware and more". Malware will make your system act odd - redirecting browsers to the wrong site, changing your home page, hijacking your web searches. If this happens, start Malwarebytes (, and be sure to update it before running. The latest definitions need to be available to be sure it finds the problem. If Malwarebytes won't update, see an expert.

The third thing you should do is to setup a good backup strategy for your computer. To implement a backup I suggest that you purchase an external USB connected hard drive. Then install a good backup program, such as Acronis True Image (, and set it up to do a backup of your hard drive, automatically, at least weekly. If disaster strikes you can do a complete reload of the latest backup, or simply reload a single file or two that may have been lost.

Q: Is it safe to use an online storage service rather than buy a larger hard drive?

A: That is a complex question being addressed by companies as well as individuals. Alert Logic is a major provider of security for private companies. They regularly compile information on security problems they encounter and issue reports on the patterns observed. In their latest report, they note that security threats and particularly malware attacks are still greater for a company's own computers compared to data stored online.

Another report by Verizon noted that 80 percent of hacking attacks focused on organization's internal data. Google recently noted that the number of attacks on internet-stored data is increasing, but most storage companies are responding with increased security. Google now has about 300 professionals addressing security. The fact that online services are spending more on security than an individual or company can afford is prompting an increasing use of those on-line services that demonstrate a commitment to security.

At the same time, many companies are being cautious, storing locally any data that might be used for identity theft or to gain access to financial accounts and any information with economic value. A similar approach might be appropriate for individuals. Anything legal that would not help a thief steal your money can be stored online without much anxiety.

The other risk with online storage is that the information could get lost. That risk is small and is similar to the risk that your hard drive will die. To protect data on your hard drive, it is recommended that you back up your data to another hard drive. Similarly, you can store your data on two online services so that one is likely to be available if the other is compromised or temporarily unavailable.

Using such strategies should make online storage reasonably safe, and, in the long run, it may prove safer than personal storage. The Prescott Computer Society is continuing to debate this issue at its Saturday afternoon meetings at the Library.

The Prescott Computer Society (PCS) is a PC-based users group located in Prescott. We hold several entertaining and educational meetings each month to show you how to get the most out of your computer. For further information, visit Email questions for future columns to

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