Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back to School Internet Safety Checkup - Again!

Just like last year...

At this moment, you and your kids are likely either (a) out and about, and not using the computer at all, or (b) holed up in the air conditioning playing endless games of Millsberry (totally addictive for 8-year old girls) or Soduku on the computer. Certainly not any sort of schoolwork or research. It's probably been a while since you really took a close look at all those "updates are ready for your computer" messages, lurking down in the task bar or hidden beneath 15 browser windows full of Webkinz games and characters.

Take a couple of hours, before the Fall school and activity rush begins, and whip your computer and young Internet users back into shape!

1) Windows and Java updates - check for updates, and keep Microsoft and Sun happy.

2) Back up all your stuff - especially all the photos from Summer vacation, plus last year's tax forms. Also, re-locate all your application software installation CDs, especially the stuff that came with your computer, for system restore purposes.

3) Take a quick troll through your junkmail/bulk mail folders - maybe something's been missed, but then clear it all out.

4) Is your perimeter protection still active? Firewall on, Pop-ups being blocked, Anti-virus running, updated and with a recent full scan?

5) How about wireless - view local wireless connections, does your SSID show up as an unsecure connection in your neighborhood?

6) Content protection - is your adware and/or content filter software still running, and been updated recently? Is Google still set to SafeSearch?

7) Might be a good time (in Internet Explorer) to empty the cache (temporary files), clear the cookies and offline files, re-check your privacy settings. (Before you do this, think through all the userids/passwords you use, and write down all you know.)

8) Review your checking and visa account for the past few months....any strange transactions? Maybe it's a good time to pull your credit report.

9) If you're really motivated, and your kid's computer and/or printer hasn't seen an adult in many months (ugh, please don't let this happen!), protect your investments and run things like Registry First Aid, Disk Cleanup and Defragmenter, and take a look through the active processes (under Task Manager), noting whether a bunch of junk or suspicious programs are eating up cycles and memory. About twice a year, I actually write down all running process names, look 'em up on the Internet, and follow any guidance I find to remediate, remove or otherwise fix issues. I usually find plenty of parasites to remove. Run the diagnostic self-test and cleaning routines for the printer, and get some extra ink cartridges now!

10) Review Internet Safety guidelines and your expectations/agreement with your children, for them to use the computer. (Go to Whizkids Computer Training for more information).

Bring on the school year!

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