Cyber-Security: Computer and Online Safety Tips


 Today's National Cyber-Threat Level





One does not have to be a government or multinational corporation to be concerned about cyber security. Internet fraud, identity theft, and scams are all real threats that can compromise your data, your assets, and your career.  Here are some tips for safer surfing and more secure computing: 

Be Prepared

  • Have good antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-malware and firewall software installed on your computer and update daily. 

  • Do full scans regularly, at least weekly.

  • Keep your operating system, web browser, office software and other software updated with the latest security patches.

  • Scan thumb drives, disks, downloads and files for viruses before loading onto your computer.

  • Keep your computer backed up and copies in a Safe Offsite Location (SOL).

  • Know what to do in an "e-mergency."

    • If you suspect a cyber attack or an infection physically disconnect your computer from the internet/turn off your wireless adapter immediately. Malware could be sending your information to thieves.

    • If you suspect your passwords have been stolen use another computer to change them immediately and contact your bank, credit cards and other accounts to notify them of a problem.

    • Run full virus, malware, and spyware scans on your computer.

    • If you are unable to resolve problems yourself, seek professional help.

    • Try to determine how your computer was infected or compromised so you can avoid similar problems in the future.

Be Wary

  • Do not open suspicious emails and attachments, even if they come from a reliable source.

  • Do not load unknown programs onto your computer. Programs may contain spyware or malware that can compromise your security.

  • Do not shop online with companies you do not know, and do not use a credit card on an unencrypted connection.

  • Watch out for phishing attacks - many use emails that appear to be coming from reputable companies. Phishers will try to trick you into giving them your social security number, credit card number, password, or other personal data. Often phishing emails contain links to fraudulent web sites that look exactly like the real sites to trick you into entering your personal information.

  • To protect your customers, scan the web for others who may be using your logo or claiming to sell your products.

  • Be wary of offers that are too good to be true, they almost always are.

  • Malware Masquerading as a Windows Component

    Watch out for pop-up windows that mimic those from your computer programs or operating system that you have not seen before or that tell you that there is something wrong with your computer that can be fixed by downloading software or paying a fee. Do not click anything on a window like this, even to close it. Exit your browser and/or shut down your computer and reboot. Run a malware program immediately and remove any programs it finds.

  • One particularly dangerous type of malware that is becoming more prevalent is called ransomware. When infected with ransomware your computer files are encrypted so that you can't access them and your screen displays a message indicating your files will be permanently encrypted unless you transfer funds to the creators of the ransomware. Often, the message looks like it is from a law enforcement agency asserting your computer has been used for illegal activity. By transferring funds, your files will supposedly be made available again and any criminal charges will be waived. Don't pay the "ransom," disconnect from the internet and have your computer checked by a professional. Take the cyber security steps outlined on this page to reduced the likelihood a ransomeware infection, and if an infection does occur your files will be safely backed up.

Be Secure

  • Use long and strong passwords with a combination of random characters, and use different usernames and passwords for each account. Here are some suggestions from Microsoft on how to create strong passwords.

    • Do not use passwords that contain dates, sequences of numbers, or words that someone may be able to guess or discover. Computer programs are available that will generate random passwords for you.

    • Do not allow your computer to "remember" your important passwords. These can be easily discovered by someone knowledgeable about computers.

    • Store your passwords in a safe place away from your computer. There are computer programs and services that will encrypt and store all your passwords under one master password. This may be a viable way for you to handle passwords, but choose the program or service carefully.

    • Read this Tech Soup article on creating and managing secure passwords.

  • Take measures to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data in your office.

    • If more than one person is using a computer consider setting up multiple user accounts and passwords.

    • Password protect sensitive files and folders.

    • Set up company policies for computer use to protect customer information and protect your computers and data.

  • Dispose of old computers safely. Your old computer probably contains much personal or sensitive business information that could be retrieved, even if the drive has been erased.

    Use software to wipe the drive clean by writing over it multiple times, or remove the hard drive and physically destroy it. 
  • Take proper precautions when using Wi-Fi hotspots. Most wifi hotspots do not encrypt information and are not secure. Other users on the network can see what you see and what you send using hacking tools that are available online and simple enough for those with limited technical ability to use. Onguard Online has more information on using Wi-Fi safely.  Their website has gone temporarily offline but their Facebook page has plenty of tips.

Be aware

Remember to STOP, THINK, then CLICK. Time is your friend and fatigue is your enemy. Stay alert when you are using the internet, whether surfing the web or opening and responding to emails.

Cyber-Security Resources:

National Cyber Security Alliance: is dedicated to educating and empowering digital society to use the Internet safely and securely. The site contains information on Internet safety and security for business, home, classroom, and higher education. Their STOP | THINK | CONNECT poster  in PDF format is a must to download and print for the studio.

US-CERT (United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team) has dozens of useful cyber security tips, publications and alerts for current cyber threats.

Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center  is a clearinghouse for cyber threat prevention, protection, response, and recovery. The site contains advisories, publications, and daily cyber security tips:



Beware of Art Scams

Artists are frequent targets of scams perpetrated through email, social networking, and web sites.  One common type involves an offer to purchase art work.  Often, the artist receives a check in excess of the amount due, and is asked by the scammer to return the balance. After shipping remitting the balance and shipping the work, the artist finds out that the check was a fake and the bank takes the money out of his or her account. The artwork is abandoned-it was never about the art. Other common scams involve fraudulent exhibitions and advertising in official-looking art fair catalogs. Be suspicious of offers from other countries, those coming from free email accounts (,,, and emails with strange syntax or misspellings.

These scams all depend on us being anxious for a good sale or a big break, and on the fact that we are busy enough to overlook fine print or a tip-off that something is not quite right. Take the time to thoroughly check out the contact before signing anything, sending money, or shipping work.

Art Scam Resources has good tips on how to recognize and avoid falling prey to art scams.

Stop Art Scams blog posts examples of recent scams that are circulating and links to other sites that are keeping tabs on what art scammers are doing. debunks hoaxes, scams, and urban legends.  Before forwarding that email about free notebook computers from Bill Gates, check it out on Snopes and avoid yourself the embarrassment of emailing your 500 closest friends to tell them you fell for a hoax.