Article Written By: Kyle Kunnen | SVP, Information Security Officer | Mercantile Bank of Michigan

If you are like me, once everyone is home for the evening, I go around and lock all the doors and make sure the two by four is in the track of the slider door.  As an added security measure we have motion sensors on some large outdoor lights.  Your computer is like your home and there are numerous ways you can protect it from intruders too.

A firewall is a definite must have if you connect your computer to the internet.  Not only ensure you have one, but also make sure the default administration password has been changed.  The default password on a lot of home systems is “password” and everyone knows this, especially those with malicious intent.  Change it to something only you know.  If you need to write it down, be sure to store it in a safe place.

I recommend you find someone who knows a thing or two about in home firewalls and seek their advice on the best way to configure your solution.  Below are some additional items to consider for improving security for your computer:

  • Endpoint Protection – This is a new term describing the next generation of Anti-Malware software.  Make sure you have one running on your computer.  There are many commercially available solutions.
  • Auto Updates – You need to ensure your Endpoint Protection, Operating System and other software applications remain updated with the latest security patches provided by the vendor.  The most convenient way to do this is using the auto update features built into these solutions.
  • Screen Saver Lock – By setting up a password for your computer and enabling the screen saver lock, you keep information on your computer safe.  It also provides you control over who you allow to utilize your computer and when.

 


Article Written By: Kyle Kunnen | SVP, Information Security Officer | Mercantile Bank of Michigan

My first car, a Chevy Cavalier Z24.  It was a manual and it was so much fun shifting through the gears at a rapid pace.  Today I enjoy driving my sons 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger.  Yes it is a manual transmission too and I have just as much fun racing through its gears like I did my old Z24.  Being an old car, it burns a little oil.  We check the oil regularly to avoid the risk of blowing up an engine.  Computers are like my son’s old car.  Preventative maintenance is also required.  While your computer may not blow up like an engine, it is at risk of failure if you don’t keep its operating system up to date. 

Vendors that manufacture the software for computers regularly release security updates.  These updates if not applied frequently will cause your system to be more susceptible to malware.  If your system is compromised, it can cause your system to behave erratically, become extremely slow, and even become inoperable. As a best practice, set your computer to auto update when a critical security patch is made available by the vendor.

The other software on your computer works the same way.  Vendors frequently produce releases to fix known security flaws.  Take a minute to review the settings within those applications.  You will likely find you can set them to auto update as well.


Article Written By: Kyle Kunnen | SVP, Information Security Officer | Mercantile Bank of Michigan

Mobile devices afford us the convenience of being connected anywhere, anytime.  Couple that with all the different forms of social media available today and you could be putting yourself at risk.  One way to limit your risk is to limit how much you share.  Most people would not share their tooth brush but are very comfortable announcing their next activity like “TGIF, heading north for a long weekend”. Think of your tooth brush before you make your next post and limit what and when you share.  Sharing how great your up north weekend escape was after it happened is much more appropriate then before you go.

Social media, like many applications is inherently good, but it can also be utilized by those with less than good intentions.  Below are some additional items to consider as you use social media:

  • Thoroughly review the security and privacy settings – Most applications like, Facebook for example, give you a lot of control over security and privacy.  Make sure you take the time to set them appropriately and check back periodically as vendors add security features which by default are not automatically enabled.
  • Don’t be a friend or connect to everyone – Do you know everyone you are connected with via social media?  If not, a perfect stranger could be watching everything you post.  Consider setting up special groups like Family, Friends or a Special Interest so you can share what is appropriate within those groups and membership is controlled.
  • Posting Pictures Online – If you are taking pictures with your mobile device, make sure you have disabled your phones ability to tag the photo with the GPS location of where it is tagged.  If you don’t and it gets into the wrong hands, the GPS coordinates could lead someone right to your front door.
  • Review the privacy settings on your mobile device – There are many configurable security and privacy settings within your mobile device.  Typically you can find them under the settings icon.  You may be shocked to know what your device is doing to track you and your activities.

Article Written By: Kyle Kunnen | SVP, Information Security Officer | Mercantile Bank of Michigan

Mobile devices have become a significant part of our lives. It wasn’t that long ago, cell phones were a privilege afforded by only a few. Today, virtually everyone carries a mobile device. The allure of always being connected and immediate access to virtually anyone or everything is immense. This additional access while great is not free from risk. Because we use our mobile devices to shop, bank and conveniently access private information, it has become even more imperative to take added precaution. Whether it is a cell phone, tablet, or other mobile device, they typically have the ability to enable a screen locking feature. Enabling this feature not only requires a code for entry, it also encrypts the contents stored on the device. This is a great first step in securing your mobile device providing assurance your information remains protected if lost or stolen.

Below are some additional items to consider as you use your mobile device:

  • Never jailbreak your mobile device – While it seems to add functionality to bypass restrictions set by the manufacturer, it also greatly diminishes the devices security.
  • Only use device approved app stores – The Google Play or Marketplace and Apple’s App Store. Other places exist to download apps that appear to be the same as those found in the traditional app stores, but are often repackaged solutions with malicious intent. 
  • Remove no longer used applications – This will not only free up space, but reduce the number of possible applications that could someday become a vulnerability. 
  •  Keep your device operating system and apps updated – Vendors often release patches to add new features or functionality. In addition, they often deliver important fixes to known security issues. For convenience, you can configure your device to apply these updates automatically when they become available.

Check back next week for more information on the next Mercantile Bank Security Minute.