No. of Recommendations: 6
I just posted this elsewhere, but maybe it will help some over here:

I've spent much of my adult life running an IT infrastructure business with a portion of its specialty in a security practice. There are two types of motorcyclists - those who have had accidents and those who haven't had one yet.

It is almost impossible today to avoid collecting various "wares" (ad, spy, mal or worse) as you wander around on the internet. While I am very aware of the habits and risks of viruses, I've had PC's infected from time to time and had just as much pain as the next guy removing some of them. (I also have had the PRC screw around with my laptop which was almost as bad).

I guess a reasonable summary to this thread is:

1) Use the proper protective hardware and software (firewalls, anti-virus, anti-malware, etc.). Proper usage is as important usage, so a bit of learning about these is important.

2) When using wired or wireless, proper encryption and authentication (passwords, etc.) is important. It is important to understand the risks of using wireless connections away from your network's protection and understand that it is possible to spoof free wi-fi sites in order to access the laptops of the unwary who connect. Hard disk encryption is important to consider.

3) Understanding the symptoms of a viral infection is important. These may be obvious (like the "hostage" message or web browser changes in home page or search engine) or less obvious (like he PC's clock changing, things becoming very slow, all sorts of blinking lights on your network switch without explanation, etc.). If a penetration is suspected, IMMEDIATELY take protective action by unplugging the network cable from the PC and also powering down external disk units until the problem is properly diagnosed and corrective action taken. Be prepared to power down a PC (or shut your browser down with Task Manager if you feel uncomfortable with what's happening.

4) Be prepared to change passwords if you feel that they may have been compromised (and change them at least every six months anyway). It is more important that passwords be at least 8 characters long (longer is better) and aren't trivial (12345678, for example is not a great idea) than that they are a hard to remember garbled mess. There are more secure systems, but those go beyond this short bit of advice.

5) Make regular backups of your system and if possible keep a series of them spanning a period of a month or more. This minimizes the risk of a glitch during a backup causing a problem with restoring (you can go to the next backup in the stack). It also gives you the ability to go back to the state of the system before it was infected by a virus which has been sitting on the system for a while (and infecting your more recent backups). If you do not have a network attached storage device and are too cheap to spring for USB attached storage (you'd have to be pretty cheap - I picked up a 3TB USB-3 Seagate unit at Costco's a couple of weeks ago for $99), you can always put a couple of medium sized (say 500GB) internal drives striped together from older PC's and cross-copy between PC's. Use decent backup software which will allow you to do a bare metal restore if things go into the crapper. Acronis makes a decent one for $50-75 (and I think it's the one that Seagate gives away for free under the name Seagate Diskwizard - downloadable from their web site, but the commercial one may have more features - haven't compared the manuals).

6) If you don't have the luxury of a data recovery site, do what Yoda suggested and periodically place a backup of important data files in a bank vault off-site. I use a 250GB Seagate "Freeagent" portable USB drive that I had sitting around for this (I seem to collect disk drives the way I've collected digital cameras over the years and this is a good use for the small portable ones).

7) In computers, redundancy is generally a good thing. Hard disks configured as RAID arrays will provide fault tolerance if a hard disk fails. UPS's and battery backups will allow operation (or at least a graceful shutdown of your system) if the power fails. While few home PC's have dual power supplies, (and if keeping a spare power supply on a shelf is something that's not your cup 'o rosy) knowing which one fits and which local store stocks them might be a good idea.

8) Be aware that, while your PC won't bring ten bucks at a hock shop, the data on its disks may be worth a lot more. Make sure it is safe from theft and that it's hard disks are encrypted. Make sure that if you copy data onto thumb drives or DVD's that these are either encrypted or destroyed after use. If you finish with a PC or hard disk and discard or donate these, you should use a commercial utility to wipe the disk by overwriting it with random zeros and ones (personally, I drill a number of holes through the disk drives on a drill press).

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