Protecting Internet-Connected Computers
DXLab has led many hams to begin using computers for the first time, but even long-time computer users may not be aware of what's now required to protect an internet-connected computer from malevolent usage. The risk is not simply that hackers may gain access to stored information, which for a computer dedicated to amateur radio may not involve financial loss. The risk is that your computer will come under the control of criminals who will employ it to steal identities through phishing attacks, spread spyware and viruses, participate in denial of service attacks, and convey spam.
Every owner of an internet-connected computer has a responsibility to protect that computer from malevolent usage. Such malevolent usage can be prevented by
- installing effective anti-malware applications your computer:
only logging in to your computer with administrative privileges to perform specific tasks that require those privileges
- promptly installing security updates, service packs, and patches from your operating system and application suppliers (e.g. Microsoft, Adobe)
- not opening e-mail attachments from someone you don't know, or unexpected email attachments from someone you do know
While your ham computer may not contain financial data, it likely does contain data that you hold dear -- like your log(s). Ransomware - malware that encrypts your hard drive and charges a ransom for the encryption key will get nowhere if you religiously backup your files each day -- ideally to both local storage (e.g. a thumb drive) and to a cloud-based storage service. This practice will also protect you against critical data loss due to hardware or software failure, which will occur sooner or later.
Taking the above steps will require your time and attention, but need not be expensive. There are free anti-malware applications available:
if your home network is connected to your Internet Service Provider by a router, you can configure the router's built-in firewall to provide protection, but be sure to
- change the router's password from the default value (criminals know the default password for every router model)
- periodically check the manufacturer's web site for firmware updates
- disable any services that you aren't using
Crypto Malware is an increasingly frequent attack that encrypts files on your computer's attached storage (SSD, hard drivers, thumb drives, cloud storage services) and demands a ransom payment in return for the decryption key. Frequently backing up your files to normally-disconnected storage devices provides protection against such attacks.This can be accomplished which a thumb drive that is removed after completing each backup, or by backing up to a cloud-based storage service that is only enabled during the backup operation. Several cloud-based storage services provide users with a free gigabyte or more of storage, more than enough to backup the largest logs: