Account Security - What Can You Do?

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Homestead personnel are constantly working to protect your data from security threats. Unfortunately, one of the most common ways an account can be compromised is to obtain or guess your password. Fortunately, with pretty minimal effort, this risk can be greatly reduced.

Security Software

From the time you first turn on a new computer to the last time you turn it off, you should always be running an anti-virus/anti-spyware program. The software should protect you against a wide range of threats and have a few basic features.
  1. Auto-protect - This has the program running in the background and scanning certain things all the time. Preventing an intrusion is often easier to do than cleaning one up.
  2. Auto update - Your program should look for updates on a regular basis and download them as soon as they are available. This will provide better protection against the most recently discovered threats.
  3. Schedule scans - Auto-protect is an excellent feature, but scanning everything constantly can take up too many system resources and slow down your computer. By default, most auto protects scan for the most common intrusion attempts. Scheduling a weekly full system scan to run at a time you are not using the computer will check everything.
Other Software

Make sure you regularly update applications you use and your operating system. Many software updates contain security updates to help protect your system. If you run outdated software, you are leaving yourself vulnerable. Your operating system will probably have an option to automatically update as available. You should always have this feature enabled.
  1. The same holds true for many applications, especially browsers, but they also give you the choice to install or not. You should always install these updates as soon as possible.
  2. For applications that do not automatically scan for updates, there is usually a menu item to "check for update." Most times it can be found under "Help" You should check these on a periodic basis, but I would suggest at least once a month.
  3. Remove applications you do not use. This includes checking and removing unneeded extensions in your browsers.
Internet Connections

This may be a tough one, but do not log in to your secure accounts via a public or "open" Wi-Fi network. Convenience is a great thing, but can also make you vulnerable.

Passwords

Account security starts with a password. Fortunately, most passwords, but not all, have some minimum requirements set to force more secure passwords, but you can vastly increase your account security by exceeding the minimum requirements. For reference, the list of most commonly used password for 2018 can be found here.

Example

Email account security is critical for everyone that uses Homestead email. When an email account is compromised and used to send spam - it can impact every customer that uses Homestead's email service. If one of our servers is blocked for sending spam -  many customers could be affected.

Here's a few simple ways you can keep your accounts more secure.

Passwords must be 8-14 characters in length with at least 1 upper-case and 1 lower-case letter. No spaces or symbols, other than !@#$%^&*(){}[] are allowed.

There are a number of password generators and password managers out there that can help you select and remember passwords. A simple web search will gather quite a few results. Select one that fits your needs. Then create new passwords.

Increase the strength of your password. Ideally, you would use a password generator to create complicated passwords. They are essentially randomized letters, numbers, and/or characters. This helps provide the best security. If you absolutely must use a phrase of some kind, then consider using Google translate to put the words in another language. Substitute some letters for numbers or characters.

Don't use obvious words. See the list of commonly used passwords above. This also means don't use your login. If you create an email address of Robert@mydomain.com, your password should not be anything close to Robert1.

Don't use the same password from other personal accounts. Using the same password for every login you have can make you vulnerable if someone was to figure out one password. After that, they just need to make a guess as to where else you may have an account. Feel free to keep it similar, but change it enough so if one is compromised, you can limit the damage.

Update your password every 6 months Although updating your password every 6 months can be a frustrating task, it is a sure way to guarantee some level of safety for all of your accounts. One way to remember - change your passwords when you change your clocks!

Received email

Do not open any file attachments unless you know exactly what they are and who they are from. Even if they look like they are from someone you know, they may not be. It is best to discard these suspicious emails immediately. Clicking links is also dangerous. You may have received an email from Amazon stating that you need to log into your account to update some information. When you click on the link, make sure it goes to Amazon.com. Often, you will see some odd URL and if you log in, you have just given someone your email address and password for your Amazon account.

If you have any suspicion that your account has been compromised, you should stop using the computer immediately, until you can scan thoroughly for viruses and malware. If you are not confident doing this on your own, take the computer to a professional.

By utilizing the above tips, you have the greatest chance of avoiding your account being vulnerable to compromise.
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Drew N, Alum

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Posted 5 months ago

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