What is your New Year’s resolution going to be for this year? To lose ten pounds? To read more in your spare time? How about cleaning up and optimizing your computer? It might not be at the top of your list, but it should be. The amount of time you spend on your computer every day is climbing, and cyber threats are only getting stronger. Network stability and security has never been more important than now. At Plummer Slade, we specialize in taking over computer networks and getting them running as efficiently as possible. My technical staff and I have compiled a partial list of the items that we look for when performing a Network or Security Assessment for a potential new client. With everything from keeping your operating system supported to securing your wireless network, we have you covered to make 2020 the best year for your home or office computer.

  1. SUPPORTED OPERATING SYSTEM: Microsoft is ending support for Windows 7 Operating System as of January 14, 2020.  Ending support on an operating system means that there will no longer be any patches and updates released for the Operating System.  This includes security patches and updates.  Other software and hardware manufacturers will also no longer support their software applications or hardware running the Windows 7 Operating System.  If you have computers at the office or at home with Windows 7 Operating System, you should upgrade and/or replace them with a supported Operating System.
  2. OPERATING SYSTEM & MICROSOFT OFFICE PATCHES & UPDATES: Check to make sure that your home and office computer operating system have the latest patches and updates.  Click on START, SETTINGS, UPDATE & SECURITY, WINDOWS UPDATE, Click CHECK FOR UPDATES. Also, check your Microsoft Office Software for the latest Updates.  In Microsoft Word, FILE, ACCOUNT, UPDATE OPTIONS, UPDATE NOW.
  3. ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE UPDATES: Check your Anti-Virus Software to make sure that you are on the latest version of software and the definition files.  There are two parts to Anti-Virus software, the first is the software application and the second is the definition files. Also, I recommend that you use subscription based Anti-Virus software and not free Anti-Virus software; Symantec, McAfee, BitDefender, Trend Micro.
  4. PASSWORDS: Change any of your Admin passwords for Servers, the Firewall, Wireless Access Points, and Backups. Also, change your User login password.  Make these passwords long and strong; at least 12 digits with uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. Remove Post It Notes with your passwords from your monitors or from plain site.  If you must write them down, hide them where others cannot see or find them. This is a security risk. Cleaning people, security staff and others that are not part of your firm can see and possible exploit these passwords.
  5. WIFI: Do not use free public WiFi. Free WiFi is easily hackable and you don’t know what the person at the next table or in the next room is doing to try to access your information. Instead, use your smartphone as a hotspot or subscribe from your cell phone provider to a MiFi device.  This acts as your own wireless access point.  Others need to have the secure password to get on your personal wireless access device.
  6. SAVE, CLOSE, RESTART: Save and close all of your documents and close any open windows at the end of each day.  Restart your computer at the end of each day. This releases resources and also allows patches and updates to come to your computer.  Some of these patches and updates require an automatic reboot of your computer and you don’t want to lose any work.  Additionally, when saving documents and files, do not save to your local computer or desktop. (The exception is if it is a home computer.)  All documents and files should be saved and stored on a Share Folder. Share folders are backed up daily.  Additionally, Click on Save often as you work on documents.  You never know when there might be a fluctuation in power or a power outage.  Click Save at least every fifteen minutes as you work.
  7. BATTERY BACKUPS: Use an APC Battery BackUPS for your computer. Plug the computer into the battery outlets on the device.  This device is a surge protector with battery backup built-in. If power fluctuates or there is a power outage, the BackUPS will provide about ten to fifteen minutes of power and allow you to save and close your documents, hence not losing your work,
  8. CHECK YOUR BACKUPS: Your data needs to be backed up daily and there should be an off-site (Cloud) backup.  You should perform annual test restores to make sure that your backups are working correctly and that you are able to restore your data files.  This is especially important for your off-site backups.  In the event of a disaster or emergency, the off-site backups would be crucial to restoring your data.  Perform a test restore of the off-site data and check to make sure that all of your data is accounted for.
  9. EMPTY JUNK & DELETED ITEMS: In Outlook, check your Junk Email Folder daily and empty the folder. Right Click on the JUNK EMAIL FOLDER, Select EMPTY FOLDER. The Junk Items will be moved to the Deleted Items Folder. Empty the Deleted Items Folder daily.  The Deleted Items Folder should not be used as a repository to save email.  Right Click on the DELETED ITEMS FOLDER, Select EMPTY FOLDER (If any Senders asked for a Read Receipt, Click the Option NO TO ALL).
  10. PRACTICE SAFE COMPUTING: If you receive an unwanted email with a link or an attachment, DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK OR OPEN THE ATTACHMENT.  If you do click on a link or open an attachment and it seems like nothing happened, something happened.  You need to immediately run scans with something like Malwarebytes on your computer and shut down and restart the computer.

Happy New Year!

Alicia A. Slade, MS, MBA, is the President of Plummer Slade, Inc., a Computer Networking and IT Solutions firm providing Managed Services and IT Support to law offices since 1988. Plummer Slade, Inc. is exclusively endorsed for IT Solutions by the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA).  Alicia Slade can be reached at 412-261-5600 or slade@plummerslade.com.