A few weeks ago I was talking with a colleague of mine about the alarming number of viruses, phishing techniques, hacking incidents, and many other forms of malware. He considers himself a computer “guru”; as a matter of fact, he brands himself as “The Computer Guru”. He may be a computer guru but he refers to his customers as “stupid people” just because they get infected and/or hacked. But honestly, he couldn’t be more wrong!
I have to admit that many years ago I used to behave in a manner similar to the “guru.” The way I approach my customers changed many years ago when someone very close to me made me realize that it wasn’t necessary to be a computer-know-it-all arrogant type of “guru” while helping people with their computer and network problems. Since that day I changed the way I help people solve their problems and I try to use the minimum amount of high-tech terms and avoid treating them like computer ignorants. Honestly, people are way too far from being stupid when dealing with computers and networks. Truth is, computers are so stupid that they can’t show a more human side, not yet. That is why they are so complicated. For example, a doctor is a smart person for NOT wasting his/her time when dealing with a stupid computer that suddenly decided to stop working and show a blue screen displaying an even more stupid cryptic meaningless message. Computers and most high tech devices are still relatively new among people and still evolving.
Don’t get me wrong. Computers have helped us humans a lot in many activities of our lives. But, lately, they are becoming more complicated and most of the people shouldn’t be wasting their precious time and money trying to fix them.
Guys like me had to study a Computer Science degree/post-degree, get certifications, training courses, and spend many hours trying to understand the way other people have been building computers, software, networks, tablets, “smart” phones, and many other high-tech gadgets. So, after many years of trying to understand all this Computer Science information, I’ve come up with 3 conclusions:
|1.-||Computers are the most disruptive phenomenon in human history and they are evolving at a very fast pace that does not follow any rigorous code of conduct as it happens with many other disciplines and sciences. In short, stupid computers are still evolving at a stupidly incredible speed everyday and are becoming easily available now as stupid-phones. Sorry, “smart”-phones.|
|2.-||Many High-Tech companies adopt what I call the “Profit-Philosophy” management style because they focus more on the stock price and short-term performance than on the more social conscience and human oriented design when they develop software. They force us to keep buying the next release.|
|3.-||REBOOT (restart, reset) has become the most useful tool/solution for all computers and “smart” devices. What a shame!|
That is why today in March 2013, we all are experiencing an alarming hacking rate everywhere, everyday, and this is happening even with the top companies in the computer world. But, why is this happening?
The main reason is because computers run bad-design software. What do I mean by bad-design software?
- Coding software with minimum or no security in mind.
- Coding software with minimum or null quality supervision.
- Technology evolving at high speeds.
- Managing High-Tech companies with the selfish “profit-philosophy.”
Now, the big problem here is that we all want to incorporate more “intelligence” in our everyday activities, like in our houses (“smart houses”) and cars (“smart cars”). We shouldn’t, not yet. First, we need to fix the way computers interact with us… maybe the alarming number of incidents (hacking/malware) may force us to step back and rethink our future among computers. I’m pretty sure that the security flaws found in software will undermine many ambitious projects like mobile banking.
But for today’s’ hacking problems, what can we do to protect ourselves? I could write a lot about security techniques and software that you may have to install to protect yourself but I don’t want to make your life more complicated with computers.
The best thing you can do to minimize the probability of getting hacked and/or infected is simple: Get a cheap computer and make it your most secure and private computer. This is often called a “Bastion Computer”.
A Bastion Computer is your most secure and private computer. The primary goal is to only use it for banking and other on-line transactions you can’t do off-line in the traditional manner. Usually, the Bastion Computer is the one computer located outside a firewall designed to resist all of the external attacks. Attacks can come from anywhere, and it is up to your Bastion Computer to resist these attacks, even those resulting from your own mistakes. An example of a mistake that can welcome an attack is when you receive an email that seems to be coming from a legitimate contact that supposedly contains family pictures, and you easily click on the given link. But instead of receiving adorable family pictures, you become susceptible to viruses and/or hacking.
To get a Bastion Computer you have to:
· Buy a cheap computer (notebook or desktop).
· Do not share this computer with anyone.
· Do not play games on this computer.
· Uninstall all unnecessary software that usually comes with new computers.
· Uninstall the commercial antivirus that comes with your computer.
· Install one of those FREE antivirus programs form well known companies.
· Do not read and/or download emails. No email at all!
· Do not socialize (facebook, twitter, etc.)
· Do not browse the net or watch videos.
· Do not use it for work.
· Do not insert external media that could be infected.
· Do not activate the wireless features.
· Use only one user account and protect it with a good password.
· Use your Bastion computer wired to your main router (no wireless at all).
· When not using it shut it down, do not hibernate or sleep your computer.
· Always update all your programs and operating system.
· Always start a fresh session when you logging into your bank account.
· Close your browser after logging off your bank account.
· If you have many bank accounts always start a new session for each one.
· If your browser supports private mode always use it.
· If your browser does not support private mode always delete all cookies.
Remember, your Bastion Computer must be off most of the time. You will only use it when you are banking, paying your bills or doing other secure on-line transactions. Also remember that after any on-line transactions you must log off, close your browser then turn off your computer.
I’m pretty sure you’ve already come up with a similar idea to my given advice, and that’s great! I call it common sense and I’m convinced that the concept of having a Bastion Computer is the best practice to minimize cyber-security issues. Next time you feel frustrated, stupid, and completely ignorant with your computer think about this, “ It’s not me, it’s the computer.” Then shut it down and turn it on again, in other words, REBOOT!
©Eduardo Nava – March 2013