Stay Safe Online – 7 + 1 Steps to Internet Safety and Security For Your PC

Internet safety seems like an oxymoron these days with all the threats aimed at our computers. Staying safe online doesn’t have to be difficult, and this article covers the basic steps that every computer user should take.

The phrase “Internet Safety” often seems like an oxymoron. Every day we hear of new threats aimed at our internet connected personal computers which seems to just make it that much harder to actually stay safe while connected online.

Knowing how to stay safe online has become a practical requirement these days for anyone using a computer connected to the ‘net. Fortunately, a few relatively simply steps and a little education can go a long way to making sure that your internet experience is both safe and secure.

1. Use a Firewall – If you do nothing else, you must use a firewall. Firewalls act as a type of barrier between your computer and the internet, preventing remote computers from connecting to yours unless you explicitly allow it. A firewall can be a simple device such as a broadband router, it could be a feature of your operating system such as Window’s own built-in firewall, or it can be a full featured software package that you purchase and install on each computer. Which one you choose is less important than making sure you have one and that it is enabled and deflecting threats.

2. Back Up – Failing to back up your computer, or at least your critical data, is perhaps the most common mistake I see being made today. And sadly it can also be the most costly regret you’ll have when, not if, disaster strikes. If malware hits or hardware fails often your best if not your only resort will be to recover your system from its most recent backup. Don’t have one? Then you might be severely out of luck. I regularly hear from people who’ve lost all of their data due to a malware infestation or a hardware failure. If nothing else, invest in a large external USB drive and a good backup utility and start backing up regularly right away.

3. Keep Critical Software Updated – Every day people experience problems that could have been completely avoided had they simply kept their operating system and other PC software up to date. Both Windows XP and Vista make staying up to date very easy with “Automatic Updates” and I definitely recommend that it be turned on. Similarly, most other software and applications will now also check for updates and notify you as new ones are available. Make sure your system and applications are checking for updates regularly and installing them as automatically as possible.

4. Educate Yourself – No matter what else you do, no matter what other protections you put in place, malware authors can bypass it all if they can fool you into doing something you shouldn’t. The problem, of course, is that “what you shouldn’t” isn’t always immediately obvious. That’s why it’s so important to educate yourself on how to detect and avoid their attempts. In short: be skeptical. Don’t open email attachments or instant messenger downloads unless you’re positive they’re safe. Don’t click on links in email unless you’re positive that they’re taking you to where you expect them to. Don’t download and install software without first checking it for malware. Don’t ignore security warnings unless you’re sure it’s OK. Use strong passwords and never share them with anyone.

5. Scan for Viruses – Even with the best of intentions, viruses happen. Even with the firewall in place, the operating system up to date, and a healthy knowledge of what is and is not safe, sometimes something slips through. That’s where you’ll need a good anti-virus tool. There are many to choose from but the key factors boil down to this: select a reputable tool, enable its “real time” monitoring if you’re at all uncertain of yourself or others using the computer, configure it to scan your hard disk completely once a day, and make absolutely certain that it’s downloading the latest anti-virus information daily.

6. Protect Yourself from Spyware – Much like viruses, spyware can also occasionally make it through your defenses. Spyware is often relatively benign from a pure safety perspective – spyware doesn’t often erase your hard drive or send spam, for example. However spyware does represent an intrusion, often presenting ads or modifying other programs in ways you didn’t expect or ask for. And at its worst, spyware lives up to its name, spying on you and capturing potentially sensitive information. Anti-spyware utilities operate a little differently than anti-virus, so you’ll want to make sure that you have a good spyware scanner in addition to your anti-virus tools. Like those tools, you’ll want to make sure that it’s downloading the latest spyware information daily as well.

7. Secure your WiFi – The default configuration of most WiFi equipment, and certainly the easiest configuration to set up, is completely unsecure. That means that anyone within range of your WiFi equipment can monitor what you’re sending to and from the internet – including your account IDs and passwords. The same is true in most internet cafes and free WiFi hotspots. There are two steps you must take. First, at home, make sure you enable WPA security. This will require a password to connect to your wireless network, and will encrypt all the data so it cannot be monitored. (The older WEP security is no longer sufficient, as it is easily cracked.) Second, when you’re using an open unsecure WiFi hotspot, take care to only access sensitive resources through encrypted connections. That means making sure that any web page you’re visiting that requires personal information is connecting via an https connection. It also means that you shouldn’t be downloading or sending email via your POP3 or SMTP based email program unless you know those connections are configured to use encryption as well, since by default they do not.

Bonus Step: Understand Physical Security – An old saying that I’ve found myself repeating to people more and more in recent years is this: “if it’s not physically secure, it’s not secure.” All of the preceding tips are for naught if someone else who doesn’t understand these steps can use your computer and accidentally download malware. It’s all for naught if someone with malicious intent can walk up to your computer, reboot it, install software or hardware and walk away without your noticing. It’s all for naught if your computer can be stolen. Take care to understand just how physically at-risk you might be and take appropriate actions. Don’t let others use your computer until you’re comfortable with their understanding of the risks. Don’t leave your computer unattended if you can’t trust the people who might be able to touch it. Consider encrypting data on your laptop or other computer if it can be lost or stolen.

Everything I’ve outlined might at first seem overwhelming. The good news it that most of these steps are things you’ll need to do only once, and then consider infrequently thereafter. And to put it perhaps into a little bigger perspective they’re not nearly as overwhelming as the impact of an actual security problem if it happens to you. The practical reality of the situation is simply this: we as individual computer users need to take the responsibility of the steps required to Stay Safe Online.

More information about staying safe online, including specific recommendations for each of the aspects discussed above, can be found at the author’s web site Ask Leo! There you’ll also find hundreds of answers to every day technical and computer problems.

Good Habits For Better Home Safety and Security

We want our homes to be our shelters and our safe havens. In order to keep our homes secure we do everything from installing reinforced doors and windows with strong locks to full home security systems with alarms, motion sensors and automated lighting. But all of the security imaginable does not guarantee that our homes are as secure as they could be. Developing healthy security habits will also insure that our families and possessions remain safe and sound inside of our homes.

All homeowners should regularly check the condition of their doors and windows and their locking mechanisms. A regular inspection of the exterior of any home will reveal if strangers have tried to enter the property. Inspections will also allow a homeowner to trim back hedges, shrubs and trees that may block an intruder from being seen by neighbors or from passersby.

A regular security check should also include tests of home security systems and alarms as well as all fire or poisonous gas alarms. Many insurance companies will offer discounts on a homeowner’s insurance policy if there are certain security features installed in the home or on the property.

Work with your neighbors to establish a “neighborhood watch” and alert the police to any suspicious activity or strangers wandering the neighborhood. Neighbors are always an excellent strategy against home invasion crimes such as burglaries since they become incredibly aware of the habits and work patterns of one another and will usually notice if anything unusual is taking place on the properties within their community. Rather than taking the risk of hiding a key somewhere outside of the property, such as planter boxes or under door mats, it is better to entrust a neighbor with a copy of a house key (an important security tip is to remember to never label house keys with their street address as this is an invitation to crime). Neighbors can also pick up mail, newspapers or packages should a homeowner go on vacation or be away for an extended period of time. Many people in neighborhood watch communities will park their cars in a neighbors yard to make it appear that someone is home, and will regularly check on the property of neighbors who are away.

Walk around the outside of a home at night and check to see if valuables are in plain sight, and if so relocate the items that can easily be moved. Do not leave possessions that would be easy to “fence”, or pawn and resell, in places where intruders would be able to see them from the street or by prowling the outside of the home.

A huge key to home security actually takes place outside of the home, and this is lighting. Burglars and criminals do not want to be seen committing a crime, so if an area is well-lit and well-secured it is unlikely that a thief will spend a great deal of time trying to enter the home.

Some basic, common-sense approaches to home security will help to assist and protect our homes, possessions and families from the devastating affects of crime.

Key Safety and Security Planning Tips for Successful International Corporate Events

Post-financial crisis has seen many companies and sponsors return to the international events scene with renewed enthusiasm, evident by increased volume, along with a whole new generation of offerings from providers in the sector. However, despite many internal, mature risk management processes, the majority of international events still continue to present an Achilles heel when it comes to business travel health, safety and security.

Despite the fact the event may be held offsite or away from the usual place of employment, it still does not discharge a company from their usual duty of care or workplace health and safety obligations.

When it comes to international corporate events, meetings, incentives, conferences and gatherings, here is what every planner needs to know to ensure a successful, safe and secure event. In this article you will learn the most important safety and security planning tips starting with location, activities, emergency planning, monitoring and communications. By the end of this article you will have a rapid evaluation criteria and consistent, safe approach to ensure all your international corporate events run smoothly and prevent the majority of avoidable incidents that ruin otherwise great gatherings and corporate events.

Location Selection

Too many planners leap to an ideal location and then attempt to force all the solutions and planning solutions around this ideal destination. The best location must meet the requirements for an enjoyable, successful and functional site for all the planned activities but also provide for all the support needs such as routine medical, reliable transport, secure locations and safe environments. Any location that fails these initial criteria will only amplify any emergency situation and likely result in a higher overall risk to all involved.

While the initial location is important, it is just as important to evaluate all the activities needed for the event and identify any and all social activities that will take place in conjunction with the event.

International Corporate Events

Activity Focused

Corporate meetings, incentives, conferences, and events can be high activity situations with lots of people coming and going along with information sharing and enjoyment opportunities. Therefore all proposed and possible activities must be considered and included in the final plan. This should include everything from arrivals, reception; check in, conference events, networking, social/entertainment, sightseeing, ground transport, shopping, internal travel and departures.

It is paramount that all activities available be considered in the chosen location, not just those provided on the official program as attendees or accompanying partners/families always seek out alternate options, with a high potential for emergency situations outside the traditional plans.

A commonly overlooked element is parallel or simultaneous events and activities. Other company functions, public holidays, climate changes, religious festivals and even internal company events such as product launches or press releases need to be considered and how they will impact the running of the event along with any altered threat or emergency planning concerns.

Only after all the activities, internal and external to the event, have been identified and mapped out can you progress to the emergency management and planning stage.

Emergency Planning First

This may seem counter intuitive but in my experience it is the far superior approach. With a set location and a list of activities you can now start to create broad and detailed emergency planning sessions. The reason this is a better approach is that you do not want to discover areas that require minor or major treatment solutions late in the budget, promotion, and management or confirmation cycles. For example, if you discovered that the local medical services were routinely overwhelmed on a weekend due to peak tourist activity in your chosen location, you would need to either reconsider the location as a plausible option or include onsite medical support as part of your budget and risk mitigation solution. Especially when you consider in your planning the impact and support demands should you have a group emergency such as food poisoning or the collapse of a viewers stand.

With an emergency support plan in place first, almost all your routine concerns and considerations will be itemized for completion. Rooms, transport, ushers, communications, medical, security, service providers and many more will have been considered and prioritized in the planning stage and now await procurement and confirmation in a far more organized sequence by the planning team. These services and requirements in the emergency plan, almost always have a routine and day-to-day requirement anyway, and both cost efficiencies and planning time can be reduced considerably.

No plan or assumptions are ever one hundred percent accurate; therefore a system for continued monitoring and review is also mandatory to ensure success.

Continued Monitoring

Change is inevitable, especially if your event was scoped and planned weeks or months in advance. Therefore a reliable and effective system is required to identify and manage change in accordance to the priority required by the altered outcome.

Dedicated systems and resources, often already present as part of the overall event administration, needs to be harnessed to support the inevitable change management issues. Timings, resources, weather, personnel and services are all likely to alter in some shape or form prior to or during your ideal plan. Clearly defined information requirements, lines of communication, prioritization of response and follow up procedures need to be in place and communicated to those affected or influential to the process. This should be supported with an appropriate vehicle in which to share information such as email, SMS, radios, blogs, bulletin boards and so on.

The more information you collect, the more you have to process but the better informed you will be when making routine and emergency decisions.

Information, Information and more information

Plan to capture and access as much information as possible when managing successful corporate events. Too few planners and event managers appreciate or successfully capture and process routine information that could dramatically improve the efficiency and productivity of an event but also prove pivotal to emergency situations.

Consider well in advance how to store and access information. The right information should be accessible in the easiest possible way by those that need it and the coordination and evaluation of all input should be ongoing. Flight schedules, media events, meals, contact numbers, agendas, weather activity, emergency services, support resources, capabilities, response times, preparation time, cost, expertise, and all other requirements must be pre-prepared, captured and managed throughout the event. All this information should not die with the event’s conclusion but provide a template for future events and even return options for routine and extra ordinary business activity.

With all this preparation, it is almost criminal that too few prepare their attendees adequately in advance with pre-arrival preparations.

Pre-Arrival Preparations For Greater Corporate Event Safety and Security

With all the preparation and information activity up to this point, it remains illogical why so much of it is then not shared with attendees and planners. A centralized body of knowledge in which elements can be extracted to provide and prepare attendees is neither difficult nor indulgent.

Group pre-arrival guides, information and key updates should be delivered in a “readable” or “digestible” format to all those likely to attend and support the event. This channel and focus group should be regularly updated with the most salient points regularly until the completion of the event.

A more focused demographic such as organizers, supporters, families, technical personnel, alternate language groups, men, first time travellers/visitors, women and mixed national or cultural groups should be isolated and communicated to with more specific and relevant content. This is not just in the form of a general “goodies bag” that seem to dominate a lot of these events and are rarely read or retained by the majority of attendees. Any further segmentation such as those with dietary restrictions, medical conditions and so on should also be catered for and engaged. Event providers and suppliers could learn a lot in distinguishing themselves from the general market by providing this as part of the attraction and delivery offering. All this does not need to be the sole responsibility of the attending company but could easily be provided by the host facility/entity. Don’t forget, this is a two way street also with many social media platforms available for rapid and widespread distribution should attendees seek to share their opinion, dissatisfaction or even during a crisis. Therefore, channel monitoring is also advisable.

Routine and continued updates should be available that could easily be altered to include priority/emergency information updates should the need arise. Prior development and regular use of any communication platform will only enhance the success and engagement of the event.

Communications For Corporate Event Security

Event planners and managers are almost spoilt by choice with the various means and mediums for communications. The consolidation and consistency of message is the challenge, along with ensuring segmentation of both content and receiver. Facebook, YouTube, SMS, email, blog, website and numerous other social media platforms are all viable means for two-way communication. Planners should have already identified in their emergency planning what local options, limitations or nuances prevail and the best or most reliable for the task.

Regular and enjoyable communications are never a burden but frequent, irrelevant communications puts any emergency communication at risk as users may have already dismissed or blocked specific channels due to abuse. This must also be collaborated with all aspects and planners of the event.

Like all the afore mentioned elements, these systems don’t run by themselves. They need supervision and constant management throughout the lifecycle of the event and should not be shutdown or turned off until the event is officially complete and all attendees under care are safely on their way back to their point of origin.

Continued Management

It is not the plans that are important, it is the planning. Continued management and monitoring is a close second. All events, locations and activities require care and management to ensure they go as close as can be reasonably expected to plan.

Continued management is a team event and not solely dependent upon one or two individuals. Succession planning and redundancies should have been identified in the emergency-planning phase to prevent the vulnerability presented when one or two key people are unavailable momentarily or for extended periods.

Each stage, action and even event should be reviewed and analyzed for opportunities to improve the process or identify overlooked aspects.

Conclusion

When it comes to international corporate events, meetings, incentives, conferences and gatherings, these are the key health, safety and security points that every planner needs to know to ensure a successful, safe and secure event. You now have the most important safety and security planning tips starting with location, activities, emergency planning, monitoring and communications. Use this as a reference and checklist to ensure you have an evaluation criteria and consistent, safe approach to ensure all your international corporate events run smoothly and prevent the majority of avoidable incidents that ruin otherwise great gatherings and corporate events.