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Viruses, Malware, and Worms. Oh My!

As humans, we no longer inhabit only the physical world – we live in the digital world as well. We have neighborhoods (friends/contacts) within multiple communities (Facebook/LinkedIn). We bank, shop, date, go to movies, and store personal information online – which is really scary. All of this, just like your home and car, are vulnerable to intruders and delinquents. The ransomware attack of WannaCry and the more recent cyber-attack of NotPetya, are just a couple of the attacks going on around the world. If you really want to be frightened, click here (it’s okay, I’ll wait). Those are just some of the attacks going on in the world right now.

Just as homes and cars have security systems, your network does, too. Things such as firewalls, demilitarized zones, and honeypots are used to protect against hackers; but all of the latest security technology in the world isn’t going to help if you don’t take simple proactive steps to ensure the network’s safety. You wouldn’t lock your car doors but leave the windows down, would you?


I’m sure you’ve heard it time and again: “password” is not a proper password. These days, neither is “P@$$w0rd.” Hackers know the common tricks that people use to create passwords, such as substituting numbers and symbols for letters.
Test how your passwords hold up by going to Their software will give you an approximate idea of how long it would take for a computer to crack your password as well as some tips to improve it. If the background color shows up as anything other than green, you should probably change your password. For more information on setting up a strong password, visit this article by Cloudwards.

Your password doesn’t necessarily have to be randomized or complex either (even though it helps) – here, longer is better. For example, entering in “2 kool 4 school!” (yes, you can also use spaces) will give the computer hacking estimate of 263 billion years.

Don’t Click on ANYTHING

Did you click on the last two sites I directed you to without thinking about where they may have taken you? It isn’t terribly complex to redirect someone to a place that could harm their machine. The good news is that it’s easy to prevent yourself from being fooled in such a way! Simply hover your mouse over any link or download, and in the bottom left corner of the browser window, a little tab will pop up indicating where it will take you. If it seems suspicious, don’t touch it.

Lock Your Computer

When away from your desk and your machine is going to be out of eyesight, lock your computer screen. This simple habit will prevent any random Joe from getting access to your machine. If you’re like most people, you have multiple files, programs, email clients, or whatever open on the desktop all day long to make switching through applications easier. That’s a lot of stuff to leave vulnerable!

For Windows users, the Windows key+L will lock the screen. Mac users with an optical drive will have to hit Control+Shift+Eject. If you own a Mac without an optical drive, use Control+Shift+Power.

Keep Operating Systems Up-to-Date

This may be a little trickier in the work environment where different versions of OS’s could make certain applications wonky – but at home it is simple and important. OS updates are patches in the operating system to fix known security holes. Microsoft regularly pushes updates automatically about once a month, so Windows users don’t even have to worry about it. Apple will also update Mac OS, and it’s easy to configure it to happen automatically:

  • Click the Apple menu in the top left corner
  • Click System Preferences
  • Click App Store and make sure the “Automatically check for updates” box is checked

When in Doubt, Consult the Nerds

You always have a backup team ready and willing to support you. If you notice anything going on that seems a little sketchy, let your IT department know about it. Even if it is something as innocuous as finding a USB flash drive in the parking lot, don’t plug it into your machine – give it to the nerds and they’ll check it out. The last thing we want is for something to go wrong in the network and have everyone’s machine’s affected.

Data is the most expensive asset to your association – thousands upon thousands of man-hours and dollars have gone in to produce and protect it. These five simple habits are things you can do to help protect your organization and your members! They won’t stop everything, not by a long shot, but it’s a start.


Article written by:

Eric Trowbridge

IT Intern

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