THE PUBLIC EYE: Computer Security: 10 tips

Bob Burnett
Friday January 08, 2016 - 04:18:00 PM

I’ve been reading a very disturbing book about computer security,“ >Future Crimes and decided to share what I’ve learned.

(Full disclosure: I’m a retired computer scientist and one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.)

1. Expect to be hacked. There’s one point made over and over n “Future Crimes:” there are a bunch of crazed hackers out there that are constantly trying to make $$ by hacking the computer systems of the first world. Almost daily, I check the charges on my credit cards and bank accounts. About once a year, I discover a problem. For example, last January when we were in Colorado for a birthday party , my AMEX account data was stolen at the Four Seasons! 

2. Buy a “scan-proof” wallet: This low-cost wallet 

Will keep bag guys from copying your credit card data. 

3. Don’t use the computer more than you have to. If you are not online then you won’t get hacked. When you are not doing something on the computer or phone or iPad, then turn them off or at least disconnect from WIFI. (For example, even if you are not using the camera on your phone, a hacker can use it.) 

4. Use Apple products. They are inherently more secure than the alternatives. For example, I have scrapped my Android phone (Samsung Galaxy 5) for an iPhone 6 because the Android system is very insecure. If you have to use Microsoft for something, get a special computer just for that function and do everything else on an Apple product. 

5. Whenever the Apple products come out with a security update, update immediately! 

6. Do not load your computer or phone or iPad with applications you do not use. Dump them. 

7. After reading this email, update your critical passwords. They should be at least 10 characters long and consist of at least one character, numeral, and special character. (I know this is a pain!) Don’t use the same password for your system and your critical web sites. Make them different! (And don’t let your operating system “help” you by remembering them! 

8. Google is the devil. They sell all user data (and they store everything).  

9. Facebook is inherently insecure. If you have hundreds of “friends” expect one or two to be phony. If you wonder why you post something and not all of your friends see it, that’s because Facebook decides what they see. 

10. NEVER respond to an email saying “you may have been hacked….” NEVER download attachments you aren’t absolutely sure of. NEVER respond to a “friends” email saying, “Help, I’m being held hostage in ….” In other words, if you are too tired to exercise discretion on the Internet, then log off. 

!!! “Future Crimes” is full of stories where women and children have been abused by hackers. These folks aren’t amusing or folk heroes or… they are the Hells Angels of the Internet. 

What do Russia and ISIS have in common? Answer: they’re overly dependent upon oil revenue and when times are tough they generate revenue from hacking. 

Need I say more? 

BTW: Happy New Year! 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and retired technologist. He can be reached at