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A few weeks ago at a “Boxing Day” party, I was asked for the second time in as many months about protecting kids using computers. I shouldn’t find this surprising since my daughter and her friends are tweens and starting to use computers and other devices that connect to the internet. It can be a scary time to be a parent with all that’s out there on the internet. I’ve decided to write a series of posts on various ways we can protect our kids on-line. Some of this will be my personal opinions and sometimes I’ll show you how to do things that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend (but that I know some people might want to do). And I welcome any comments or feedback you have on my suggestions, I’m sure we can learn a lot from each other.
For my first post, I’d like to talk about basic computer setup. Whether or not you have kids, it’s important to protect your computer from attack and make sure any critical data is backed up. To protect your computer I suggest the following steps. These make sense for both Mac and PC based computers.
1. The account you use day-to-day should be a non-administrator account. There is little reason today to be running an account that has full administrative privileges, and it allows malware writers to access your entire computer if they manage to trick you into running their application. If you have kids, their account should be a different one from yours and they never should have access to an administrator account. Yes, it is a pain-in-the-neck to have them come to you to install software, but the point is to exercise some control over the machine.
2. Set system software updates to run regularly. It’s vital to keep your operating systems up-to-date. You can look to Microsoft Windows Update for Windows PCs and to the Apple Website for Mac OS X machines for instructions on setting that up.
3. On a Windows PC, you need a good virus checker installed. We have a business-grade anti-virus program that provides great protection, but it's probably not for most home users. I have it installed on my "home" computers because I use my home computers for work. For a good, free anti-virus program for home use, I’d suggest the free version of AVG.
To back-up your computer data there are a number of on-line back services. We'd recommend Carbonite for personal backups. iDrive, CrashPlan and Backblaze are other possible alternatives depending on your needs.
It’s important not only to back up your home computer(s) but also to check that your backups are working and that they are backing up the data you need if your computer were to suddenly crash (or get stepped on). From time-to-time log in to your backup account and try to find a critical file or two. Check out when they were last backed up to make sure they are getting regularly backed up. Ideally you’d also restore them to your local machine and make sure they work correctly once restored.
Well, that’s a lot to start off on, so hopefully the rest will be a bit shorter, but hopefully this will get you started in the right direction.