The Lesson of 2016

We learned one vivid lesson this year:

wildly unlikely things DO happen.

Now, are you 100% sure:
* No one’s going to hack your email account? Your credit cards? Your bank accounts? Steal your identity?
* You won’t wake up tomorrow to find ransomware on your computer?
* Your disk drive will be the one that never fails?
“Oh no, I’ll be fine! I have iCloud! I have Dropbox! I have everything on my phone if my computer crashes.”


Wrong answer. It’s a new year. Forget the diet. Take sensible steps to protect your vital data instead. (Or also).
** Fix your passwords, finally
"The problem isn’t that security solutions don’t exist. It’s that many people just won’t use them."
------Eric Ravenscraft, Lifehacker

 * DON’T use dumb passwords or the same password twice. (No excuses! If you can’t be bothered with a more robust solution, try the imperfect but simple approach from our very first newsletter. ).
* Enable two-factor authentication wherever possible 
* Use a password manager, or at least let Chrome or Firefox sync your passwords.
* Lock your phone, tablet, and computer when not in use

** Back Up for Real
Be sure you have REAL backup (NOT sync)* of essential data: contacts, calendar, photos, emails, documents, financial information, even your password list. PC Magazine's 2017 best-of-backup article is here . We recently switched to iDrive , but there are other good options. Don't forget paper!: printing out things like your contact list and any short critical documents once a year is not a terrible idea. And no batteries required.
** Cultivate Healthy Paranoia
* Don’t speak to callers from Microsoft, Windows, Google, Apple, the IRS, paranoia or credit companies. If they sound legit, look up the phone number yourself and call back. (We've said it before, but it bears repeating).

* Don’t click on links to log in to secure websites (anything financial, shopping, etc.). Always go directly to a company’s website yourself, ideally from a bookmark you created. (Unsure? Clients, feel free to forward us questionable emails).
* Scan your computer regularly for malware

** On a more cheerful note:
If your passport expires this year, this is a good time to get a jump on it: March and April are the worst months for renewal.

Thanks to my kid for a tip about this free app ( which lets you take your own passport photo so you can snap away until you’re happy (easier if someone else holds the phone). Print at home, send the photos to any local printer or order direct from the app. Convenient, easy, and cheaper than most commercial passport photo services.

Happy 2017!

Alison Holtzschue and the computers dot mom team

*Services like iCloud and Dropbox are sync, not backup; they mirror what happens to your stuff, regardless of whether it’s good or bad. If you delete vital data or get hacked, the problems get synced too, although you can often recover 30 days’ worth of data. True backup preserves historical copies of your data so you can go back to a time before you accidentally deleted all your bank statements or got infected by ransomware and recover.