Quick 3 Things

Quick 3 Things: a reader asks…


I admit it, I’m not the best at following all your advice, there’s just so much of it! I’m a normal computer user, with Windows and a smartphone, many online accounts and social media accounts. I have apps on my phone for my online banking, credit card and social media accounts as well as email. So if there’s just three things you’d tell me to do, what would they be? I’m asking in regards to using consumer technology and services.

Boiling down advice into three things is certainly going to mean a lot of good advice goes unread, but I hear you, it takes a lot of work to have a safe and healthy digital life. The scammers and hackers are hard at work, and we all have to deal with issues of computers and smartphones (think malfunction or simply bad programming of operating systems and apps). But here goes – three quick things (good for whatever flavor of computer and smartphone you use):

First, practice good hygiene with your online account access. That means use long and unique passwords for everything, and use 2-factor authentication or strong passwordless (biometric or app-based) authentication wherever it’s offered. Anytime you’re worried if a password has been compromised, change it. Of course, you’re going to need a password manager to help you here.


Second, make sure you have your important personal data backed up somewhere you can get to – should you lose your computer or smartphone (or both). Whether you use cloud-based online storage (Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, Dropbox, etc.), an external drive or some combination of both, you want to ensure that you can access your data in case of disaster. And that you know what you need to do to restore your data.

Third, keep your technology up-to-date. Think updating your computer and smartphone operating system, and the apps and programs you use. This should be done on a routine basis, like monthly. Old and outdated technology should be replaced if it’s gone beyond its service life. For most consumer technology (e.g., your computer and smartphone), that means anything older than 5-10 years should be looked at with an eye towards replacement with new.


That’s about as simple as I can make it, and if you gave me a fourth, I’d say “don’t be a sucker” – scams are so prevalent, and so much of our sensitive digital life is for sale on the dark web that it’s easy for scammers to work their psychology and scam you. Don’t engage, and recognize that scams are overwhelmingly common, while true hacking is much less so. Email and popup warnings are almost always scams these days. If you’re not sure, “google it” before you do anything else.

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