The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.You probably are aware that many rip-off artists around the world would like to steal your private information. After all, the popular press is full of stories about "hackers" trying to steal your data. Such thefts theoretically can happen to any computer that is connected online. Whether it is a neighbor up the street, a hacker on the other side of the world, or a guest in room 508 of the hotel where you are staying at the moment, hackers have multiple ways of "listening in" on the data you send and receive and, in some cases, even directly connecting to your computer to copy information from your hard drive. Yet your computer can easily be protected from all that by using modern protection techniques.
Most hotels, libraries and web cafes offer free Internet connectivity, but should you trust them? The only real answer is “you don’t know” unless you are using extra security to isolate your computer from the various threats.
I am always amazed that computer owners, especially Windows users, do not take protective measures. Macintosh systems are not immune either, although the risks are lower on a Mac. Still, I'd like to see the risks driven to zero, regardless of the operating system involved.
I believe the primary reasons computer owners don't protect their systems from hackers are:
- The computer owner doesn't understand the risks.
- The computer owner doesn't understand the protection methods available.
- The computer owner doesn't know how to protect his or her own computer.
I suspect that many computer owners suffer from all three of the above. Yet, there is at least one super easy method of protecting any Windows or Macintosh laptop from most hacker risks. You can safely and securely send data back and forth to your bank, to your stockbroker, or pay your electric bill online. If you use a few simple precautions, the risk of anyone accessing your data is almost zero. Nothing is ever perfect, but good computer methods can reduce the risk to a tiny percentage.
Actually, there are dozens of protections available today, including a mix of encrypted connections, virtual private networks (VPNs), firewalls, and more. Using a combination of these methods ALMOST guarantees security, probably providing better security than sending a paper check through the postal service.
My opinion is that selecting the best security solution(s) for your computer is terribly confusing. There are too many of them! Some work better than others. Even worse, many of them require considerable technical expertise to install and configure. I consider myself to be a computer techie but I once struggled three days to configure a VPN. I finally gave up and called in a "big gun," one of my co-workers who had a reputation for being very knowledgeable about virtual private networks, firewalls, and similar security products. He never got it to work either. Not all VPN and other security products are that difficult to install, but very few of them are easy enough for the computer novice to attempt without assistance.
Over the years, I have experimented and used a variety of security products. Most of them were easier to configure than the one product I mentioned earlier. However, I wouldn't recommend many of them to a non-technical user. At least, not until this week.
I have now been using a plug-and-play product that is a combination VPN, firewall, and secure web browser. In other words, it contains all the security tools that are generally recommended for today's computers. The total time required to install it and make it operational? About 30 seconds. Even better, I think most anyone can install and use this product, even computer novices.
I spent more time taking it out of the shipping box and reading the (brief) instructions than I did in actual installation and configuration. During installation, I did have to answer a few questions that appeared on my screen but none of them asked for any technical information. It just worked. It provides a VPN for all Internet connections, including web browsing, email, file transfers, and more. Unlike most web browsers, this product leaves no trace behind of what you search for, what you share, even who you chat with. No cookies are left in your computer and your cache of preserved information is deleted when you log off. Your personal data is never left behind on a computer for others to see.
The same product encrypts all your Internet connections. There’s no telling who might be monitoring your activity or gaining access to your personal data on unsecured networks and public Wi-Fi hotspots. This product eliminates such risks.
You can find many products at all price ranges to provide VPN, firewall, and encryption security for your computer. The one I have been using this week is not the cheapest but it is by far the easiest to install and use of any similar product I have ever seen before. I can even use it on a borrowed computer, such as friend's system or (in many cases) a public computer at the local library. It can also be uninstalled within a very few seconds.
Best of all, this product works equally well on Windows and Macintosh.
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