Back when we got our first computers about 20 years ago, I think we all had the same concern: "What picture should I choose for my desktop?"

 

Tropical beaches, adorable pets, fancy cars… these tend to be the most popular choices when it comes to desktops. Yet as we have grown with technology, our concerns when using a new computer have now shifted to a whole new direction:
Security & Privacy.

 

I recently got a new laptop and wondered, "What are all the best steps to securely set up my new computer?"

 

As CEO of a data protection company, surely I have some idea about which software must be installed on a new computer to stay safe. Yet I had some doubts about the process to make sure I didn't miss a step or do things in the wrong order. Fortunately, in my team at Jetico, I am surrounded by IT security experts who helped set the best possible guidelines for this process.

 

Then I realized… if even someone like me could have some doubts about all the necessary steps and best practices, then what about small business owners without IT experts, or teenagers getting their first computers, or my own mother who just upgraded to a new laptop? (“Hi Mom, thanks for reading my blog!”) Well, here is the list of 5 steps from our team. For any of you out there with the same doubts as I had, I hope this helps.

 

Yeah, you got a new computer! So what's next?

Securely migrating to a new computer can be done in just 5 steps. If you are not replacing an old computer, then you can just skip ahead to step 3.

 

    1. Call for backup!
      When migrating to a new computer, you must not forget to backup your data on an encrypted external drive, like a large memory stick. Of course the backup prevents from data loss during the migration process. But we all know how easily USB sticks can get lost or stolen. The added encryption will keep your files safe from any unwanted eyes.
      • Take an empty external drive, such as a large USB stick.
      • Install whole disk encryption software on your old/existing computer, if not already there. Just install – no need at this point to run the encryption on that computer. We’ll get to protecting that old computer in a moment.
      • Encrypt the external drive.
      • Transfer all your desired files and folders to the external drive.
      Not sure on how to do it? For backup, read the NCSA tips, while to learn more about easy encryption, you can read my blog, "Smile, encryption is as easy as that".

    2. Say goodbye and leave no trace behind
      Before selling, donating or throwing away your old computer, make sure to securely remove all your data. Tools to wipe out entire hard drives are available for download on the Internet. Or if you ask nicely, I might know a good one to suggest.

    3. Get up & running
      Just switching on and playing with your new 'toy' right out of the box could very quickly compromise your security. Please take the following precautions to set it up properly:
      • Download and install all security patches and updates available for your operating system. And keep installing those patches as they become available!
      • Install an Internet Security software package, including at least anti-virus and firewall, to ensure you stay safe online before connecting to the rest of the world.
      • Check your privacy settings. If you don’t know where to find the privacy settings for your browser or the apps and websites you use, the National Cyber Security Alliance is here to help. Read NCSA instructions.

    4. Protect your data
      Nothing is better than encryption when it comes to protecting your data from unwanted eyes. On your new computer, do not create or move any files or folders unless encryption software is already installed and configured. There are two main flavors of encryption on the market:
      • Encrypt your computer – Protection from physical threats; keeps everything safe if your computer gets lost or stolen, which is risky if you often travel with your computer.
      • Encrypt your files and folders – Protection from virtual threats; especially good if you ever share your computer with someone else.
      Which one is better? Well the best approach is to use both. Whole disk encryption does nothing while your computer is on and file/folder encryption might not cover all points where your data can be vulnerable.

    5. Clean up your mess!
      For ongoing protection, regular clean-up of your system is a must. While wiping tools are mainly known for their 'total erase' functionality, selective wiping is also an option. When choosing a selective wiping tool, make sure that it can securely erase:
      • Files & Folders – Securely remove data when no longer needed
      • Data Remanence – Remove residual data that continues to exist after common activities, such as 'delete'
      • Internet & Local History – Remove all traces of user activities
      To learn more about selective wiping and ongoing data protection, you can read my blog: "Does your cyber hygiene need a brush up?"

 

From Data Privacy Day to Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Not sure what to get your loved one?

 

For an unconventional gift, you might consider using the above suggestions. Saving your loved one's time and frustration is never a bad idea. Believe it or not, I personally tested it with my wife… and she was thrilled! She thought it was such a nice gift to just turn on her new laptop with everything already securely set up for her and ready to go.

 

 

This post originally appeared as part of a guest blog on StaySafeOnline.org, the website of the National Cyber Security Alliance, and is republished here with permission of NCSA.