LoTW has induced many hams to begin using computers for the first time, but even long-time computer users may not be aware of what’s now required to protect an internet-connected computer from malevolent usage. The risk is not simply that hackers may gain access to stored information, which for a computer dedicated to amateur radio may not involve financial loss. The risk is that your computer will come under the control of criminals who will employ it to steal identities through “phishing” attacks, spread spyware and viruses, participate in denial of service attacks, and convey spam.
Every owner of an internet-connected computer has a responsibility to protect that computer from malevolent usage. Such malevolent usage can be prevented by
1. installing effective anti-malware applications your computer (firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware)
2. only logging in to your computer with “administrative privileges” to perform specific tasks that require those privileges
3. promptly installing security updates, services packs, and patches from your operating system and application suppliers
4. don’t open e-mail attachments from someone you don’t know, or unexpected attachments from someone you do know
While your “ham computer” may not contain financial data, it likely does contain data that you hold dear — like your log(s). Malware that encrypts your hard drive and charges a ransom for the encryption key will get nowhere if you religiously backup your files each day — ideally to both local storage (e.g. a thumb drive) and to a cloud-based storage service. This practice will also protect you against critical data loss due to hardware or software failure, which will occur sooner or later.
Taking the above steps will require your time and attention, but need not be expensive. There are free anti-malware applications available; several cloud-based storage services provide users with a gigabyte or more of storage for free, more than enough to backup the largest logs.
Chuck N9KY, please jump in with anything I’ve missed above. If you could cite online articles that include vendor-independent step-by-step actions to be taken by owners of Windows, OS-X, and Linux systems, that would be particularly helpful.