(Long Island, N.Y.) Right after I gave birth to my second child, I had a ton of things to worry about. My computer was the farthest from my mind. Until one day–it crashed and I lost everything. Everything–my photos, e-mails, business documents. (The horror!) Luckily, I had all those thing backed up and although I had to start from scratch, all was not lost.
That’s because when I had problems with my CD ROM months earlier (while we were living in Brooklyn), and the savvy computer whiz who came to save the day, warned me to back up all my files. Thanks to Steven Lastoe of Quick Byte http://www.quickbyte.net I didn’t shed a tear over lost files. Here’s his advice on simple things you can do today to keep your computer life running smooth.
Long Island Exchange: Most people don’t take steps to protect their computer from a virus–until after a big problem. Personally, I just assumed the antivirus program that came already installed in my computer was adequate protection. Is that true?
Lastoe: It is not true, but it is a common mistake that novice users make. If an antivirus program does come with a new computer, often it has to be activated, and from then on it needs to be kept current. Antivirus programs need up to date virus definitions in order to be most effective. In addition adequate firewall protection, and software updates round out the big 3 of computer security.
Long Island Exchange: Thanks to your advice, I have saved all my precious pictures and important documents on CD’s– in case of a computer meltdown. Yet when I ask families (who have years of memories stored in their computer) if they have backed them up—the answer is often: “No, why should I?”. Can you back me up… and tell them why they should?
Lastoe: It’s not really a question of if you will one day lose important data, it’s a question of when. Hard drives fail and sometimes even the building they are in fails, I’ve had more than one client come to me after a pipe burst and the resulting “flood water” got to their computer.
Even if you avoid mechanical problems, there are still viruses and human error to contend with. After my first year in business, I accidentally deleted almost every file I had created related to the business.
Long Island Exchange: You offer a wealth of information on your website about backing up your computer. What’s the single most important thing consumers or small business owners should know about backing up their files?
Lastoe: There is no single thing I can point to, but the owner of the business, or the tech savviest person in the family should have a backup plan and execute it.
Long Island Exchange: Let’s talk spyware for a moment. What is it, essentially and what do you recommend your clients to do to avoid potential problems from spyware?
Lastoe: I’m going to go with the term malware instead, as it is a little more general. Malware is any software that resides on your computer, usually somewhat surreptitiously, if not illegally, and takes advantage of that situation. It could do something as blatant as stealing your data, or as innocuous as the occasional pop-up. There are many different types of malware, some of which are spyware.
My current recommendations for avoiding spyware are to use Norton Antivirus 2006, which has an excellent AntiSpyware component, and the free Microsoft Windows Defender program. That and a little common sense should keep you safe.
Long Island Exchange: You were recently featured on The NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams discussing the topic of wireless security. I found it alarming that people can use your wireless Internet connection without your knowledge. Is it something I should be worried about?
Lastoe: It depends on who you are. If you practice good computer security, then there really isn’t too much to worry about as far as your computer goes. However, with most people I know, that’s a sizeable if. At the same time, if you have an open wireless network, people can use your connection for anything, and they could slow the connection down by overusing it. Professionally, I secure all the wireless networks I setup, but my own is wide open.
Long Island Exchange: What steps can you take to avoid this?
Lastoe: Simply put, if you don’t want people to use your wireless network, secure it using some sort of encryption, a feature built into wireless access points. For most wireless networks, WPA-PSK encryption is a good choice.
Long Island Exchange: You started Quick Byte in 1997. In your years of rescuing people from computer problems, (me included) what would you say is the biggest mistake people make –besides not backing up important files?
Lastoe: It’s tempting to say security issues, but I’m going to go with not reading what’s on the screen or newspaper in front of them. People could save themselves a lot of time and trouble if they would just read what’s on the bloody screen.