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Safety technology is only a part of an overall safety plan. If you use your computer in your small business or home-based business, or simply use it to surf the Internet, or email your friends and family, then developing a comprehensive safety plan should be a very important part of your overall safety strategy to protect your personal and financial files and those of your family. The best move is one of Prevention! Prevention! Prevention!

With that in mind, allow me to share with you 14 questions you need to be asking, or, at least, be thinking about, if you're serious about preventing or stopping safety attacks, risks, and threats:

1. Do I have a solid safety policy? If you don't, begin immediately to get sample safety plans, policies, and best practices for your business and/or home. You may want to search Google using the keywords, “computer safety plans”, for a list of online resources.

2. Where would I go for key information and news on keeping my information private? Search the Internet, for "managed computer safety services". Ask the sources you select if they provide a free computer test to assess your computers level of vulnerability. Also ask them if they provide the latest tips on how to keep your privacy and protect your personal information and that of your business. Or simply - ask me.

3. Does my disaster recovery plan include redundant back-up and data recovery systems? Understand what a good data back up system is and how to best recover from a disaster. Search Google or Wikipedia using the keywords, “good data back up system”.

4. Do I know how to create safe passwords? Learn how to write virtually un-crackable passwords. Search Google using the keywords, “writing safe passwords”, for a full list of legitimate and bona fide sources of this educational information.

5. What or who is a hacker? A person who uses and/or creates software technology to break into the computers of individuals, businesses, government, and organizations for personal gain is known as a hacker. After he, she, or they hack into a computer, they can control it secretly by remote, making it a "zombie computer”.

6. What is "drive-by hacking"? Because wireless Internet access points have become popular for homes and businesses, computers at these locations have become a major target for hackers. In this new phenomenon, called "dive-by hacking", hackers simply take their laptop computers in their cars and drive through business parks or residential neighborhoods remotely scanning for open wireless networks. (And they don’t even have to enter your home or business to steal your valuable information.)

7. How do hackers break into home and business computers? If they don't have the break-in software, they can buy it off the black market, or create it themselves. With this technology, they use their malicious software to look for holes in the computers of their targeted victims. This is what hackers in Malaysia are doing with the new Microsoft Vista Windows.

8. To what extent might my home or business computers be vulnerable to hackers, their tools, viruses, etc.? You’ll never know unless you take the time to test your computers to see what holes are open and by what backdoors (up to 65,000 portals) are malware entering your computer. If your son or daughter is downloading free music, games, or screensavers, more than likely they are also downloading hidden spyware. (That’s why they’re called spyware) Again this is what they are doing with the new Microsoft Vista Windows.

9. I have all the safety measures, anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall I need. Can my computer still be hit by hackers and other pc-disabling attacks, risks, and threats? Again, depending on the safety measures you have on your computer and the sophistication of the hacker's software program, your computer(s) might or might not be compromised. Remember: Cybercriminals are superintelligent criminals! They somehow always seem to stay one step ahead of authorities and anti-cybercriminal software.

10. What do I do if my employees or family members are my biggest safety risk? Sad, but true, the Federal Trade Commission has reported that employees have stolen something more valuable than money from their employees. Learn about social engineering and insider hacking. Or simply - ask me.

11. How do I train my employees or family members to be safe? Get all leading research on what to teach about safety. Or simply - ask me.

12. Would I know if someone tries to hack into my computer? Depending on the safety measures you have on your computer and the sophistication of the hacker's software program(s), you might or might not be aware. Using keylogging programs, these cybercriminals can secretly see and record every keystroke you enter on your computer, thereby gaining access to all your private and personal information without your knowledge.

13. In case someone does hack into my computer(s) and steals my (or my family’s) identity, what chances of recovery do I have? It all depends upon the severity of the damage done and the time that has elapsed before discovery. Search for a company that offers comprehensive identity recovery services (including all types of identity theft, not just your credit); one that will continue to work on your behalf until your identity has been restored to its pre-theft status; and one that includes $25,000 identity theft expense reimbursement insurance. Be sure that the company also includes in its services full identity monitoring (the proactive monitoring of all forms of identity theft, including credit fraud); and have fully trained professionals to handle it all for you from beginning to end so you won’t have to. Or simply - ask me.

14. Where can I find comprehensive services that will give me full protection of my identity, my financial records, and my computers and for my family all at the same time? I do not know of any one company offering a fully comprehensive set of managed care services except one. If you do not already have access to such a service that offers unlimited service by subscription, a set-up service to insure that the software programs are set up properly on your computers; a full-service legal plan for you and your family for any legal issue with free services including simple wills, unlimited phone and face-to-face conversations, legal document reviews, and discounted and fixed legal fees for extensive legal matters and representation; ongoing service with first month free and includes automatic software updates, free software upgrades, identity theft insurance, safety advisory alerts; and fast, easy, and unlimited telephone access to technical support, ask me how to obtain yours.

Obviously if you have to ask these questions, you need to take immediate steps to plug the holes and cover the gaps. So, here are some steps you can take immediately to implement, or improve, your present safety measures:

• Learn all you can about hackers and the tools they use to invade your privacy and cause problems. Subscribe to a comprehensive source of Internet safety research, news and information for small and mid-sized businesses and organizations, or other professionals.

• Take advantage of the research already done. Get access to information about the leading topics in the safety field, including hackers and hacker tools, viruses, data back up, writing good passwords, government and legal issues, protecting from insider hacking - and more.

• Need help creating a safety plan for your organization or business? Take advantage of professional safety consulting and training both by telephone consulting or on-site visits. Get vulnerability assessments, employees training, safety implementation, and much more.

Because hackers, cyberpredators, and other cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more sophisticated in their operations, they are real threats to your personal safety and privacy. Your money, your computer, your family, and your business are all at risk.

Remember: When you say "No!" to hackers and spyware, everyone wins! When you don't, we all lose!

© MMVIII, Etienne A. Gibbs, MSW, Internet Safety Advocate and Educator

Author's Bio: 

Etienne A. Gibbs, MSW, Internet Safety Advocate and Educator, consults with individuals, small business owners, and home-business entrepreneurs regarding online protection against spyware, viruses, hackers, and other computer-disabling cybercrimes. For more information, visit his websites at: