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Cyber Security: Physical Security Do’s and Don’ts — New Media Institute Offers Tips to Secure Your Computer Data

New York, NY (PRWEB) September 24, 2007

New Media Institute and CyberSecure Technologies have developed a list of security fundamentals to help you protect your computer, your workplace network, and your personal data.

"These guidelines are designed to keep you conscious of computer security in the broadest possible sense. They are by no means the only practices and procedures you should follow, but they are certainly among the most important," advised Dr. Robert Schmid, cyber security analyst for the New York-based New Media Institute.

All computers, from your desktop in the den to the laptop you use on the road, have become more and more vulnerable to intrusion and attack. From January 2005 to the present an estimated 165 million data records of US residents have been exposed according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Viruses, worms, malware and spyware are rampant throughout the Internet. Entities as diverse as the federal government and the City of New York pension system to companies like SAIC, AT&T and numerous banks have had laptops with supposedly secure information either lost or stolen.

Physical Security Fundamentals

There is danger posed by the loss of physical control of your computer. The most extensive breaches of computer data in the past six months have been the lost laptops and unsecured workstations at companies like SAIC and a host of government agencies. Physical security is paramount.

To deal with these physical aspects of computer and data security, NMI recommends the following:

Protect your computer from physical damage. Simple as it may sound, the first line of defense against losing your data is to make sure your computer is safe from actual physical damage. There are horror stories about irreplaceable data being lost because a laptop fell into a pool or out the back of a poorly packed SUV.

Protect your computer from electrical damage. Electrical shutoffs, power failures, and electrical surges are all part of modern life. Your computer requires a steady "clean" source of power in order to operate properly. Turn it off in a storm. Use a power surge protector. Do not run motors or other heavy duty equipment (copiers, fans, air conditioners, etc.) on the same circuit as your computer! If possible, install an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) that will maintain enough power for your computer to complete a normal shutdown even if the power fails.

Protect your computer when you are not using it. If you only step away from your computer for a few minutes, there is enough time for a casual passerby to use your equipment. Securing your work area, at home or the office prevents even friendly users, the kids or your co-workers, from accidentally corrupting your system or deleting your information. After all, it is simple to sit down at an unoccupied computer access either the Internet or email. Your personal information is at risk when your computer equipment is unsecured! If possible, turn your workstation or laptop off when it is not being used.

Disconnect your computer from the Internet when you are not using it. We have all left our computers connected to the Internet and walked away from them. Permanent connections, either through a business network or DSL are commonplace. The risk, however, is becoming more and more serious. IM sessions, automatic program updates, email, and scripting all have risks based on their continued connection to the Internet and the unattended nature of their activities. If another person using IM (Instant Messenger) has an infection, you run the risk of unwanted intrusions yourself just by being on their chat list!

Carefully consider your security settings. Programs and data are only as secure as your passwords and security settings. Operating systems, browsers, and most commercially available software have put in place a series of options that give the user the ability to require identification and passwords for everything from logging on to opening a specific file. Use what your system offers! It can be tailored to meet your needs and requirements. If the choice is ease of use or security, opt for security. Enabling program options that increase convenience may leave you more vulnerable. Examine all system settings, particularly the security settings, and select options that decrease your risk of data loss or intrusion.

Back up your data. Files and data are lost by users all the time. We have all accidentally erased a file. No matter how much you protect your data and the machine that houses it, it can be lost. The hard drives we all depend on to store our data have a fixed life expectancy. A low but significant percentage of them fail within months of production but all of them eventually crash. In addition, files can be damaged or destroyed by a virus or worm, a natural event, or a problem with your equipment. A simple disruption of transmission from the hard drive through the CPU can render a file useless. Regularly backing up your data is a no-brainer. Using a CD, DVD, network drive, tapes, or an external memory device will mitigate any problems created when your data is corrupted or destroyed.

Protect your backups. When you make your data backups, make sure they are kept in a safe, secure location. It does no good to secure your PC and leave the backups where anyone might find them!

Guard your peripherals. With the spread of flash drives, portable computer memory, memory cards and mini hard drives many users store valuable data in multiple places. Many of the devices are so small they are easily misplaced or lost. Users also use these devices to transfer files between machines without realizing a copy of the file could be left on the device itself. Encrypt important data files on these devices. Keep close track of miniature memory devices. Wipe them clean when a transfer has been completed. Do not leave them in computer chip slots or USB pots. Be careful. Your data is easily accessed if the device falls into the wrong hands.

About New Media Institute

The New Media Institute (NMI) is a research and fact finding organization whose mission is to improve public understanding of issues surrounding the Internet and other forms new media communications. Register now for the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Workshop


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