Friday, July 1, 2016

Protect Your Manuscript: 5 Tips for Securing Your Computer by Cassie Phillips

Protect Your Manuscript: 5 Tips for Securing Your Computer
Technology has made it easier for writers to keep their manuscripts on hand and edit them from just about anywhere. Handwritten manuscripts seem to be becoming a thing of the past for many writers, as the ease of typing and storing documents on a computer can be much more convenient. Although it can seem like a better choice than writing your manuscript by hand, there are some risks involved that could put all of your efforts to waste.
It's not common to find a computer that isn't connected to the internet, and hackers and cyberattacks are plentiful online. Whether you're writing from your favorite café on an unsecured network or just at home checking your email, malware could be making its way onto your computer. Fortunately, internet security tips can help keep all of your documents protected and are simple to utilize.
Implement the following tips to secure your computer and protect both your manuscript and identity online.
1.    Scan Your Computer
One of the largest threats online is malware, but as you might already know, an anti-virus program can prevent your computer from acquiring it. Anti-virus programs will allow you to scan your computer, tablet or smartphone for malware and assist you in removing most viruses. Basic level protection provided by a free anti-virus program is usually enough to protect you, but it's also important to be aware that you can still be at risk for cyberattacks even with internet security software on board.
You’ll still need to do your part by avoiding suspicious websites, emails and the like while connected to the internet. Sometimes you may come across content on the web that appears to be legitimate but is actually malware in disguise. Look for subtle hints to avoid these threats, such as frequent grammatical errors on pages or in messages where proper English is often used.
It’s a wise idea to learn more about what common internet scams look like so you can know how to spot them. If you do come across anything online that appears to be suspicious, be sure to open up your anti-virus program to run a complete scan immediately afterward. By doing so, you may be able to remove the threat before it becomes a real issue.
2.    Encrypt Your Connection
Another way you can keep malware at bay (and hackers in general) is by encrypting your internet connection. It’s not uncommon to connect to public WiFi, especially when you’re a writer who may travel somewhat often or enjoy writing over coffee at a café in town. While seemingly safe, the unfortunate issue with using public WiFi is that the connection isn’t encrypted and is open for anyone to use to their liking.
A hacker could easily access your device (whether it be a smartphone, tablet or computer) over an unsecured connection and do everything from deleting your files to spying on your activities and more. With all the work you've put into your manuscript, it's especially important to keep your connection properly secured because not only could you be at risk of losing your documents, but someone could potentially steal your work and publish it as their own.
In my experience, the best tool to use to prevent this from occurring is a Virtual Private Network (VPN). With a VPN on hand, you’ll have the ability to connect to a remote server that is already encrypted. When you do so, your internet traffic is routed through the server, masking your IP address and securing your connection.
Like an anti-virus program, a VPN service is generally subscription-based, and there are many to choose from. For a great comparison, this VPN review by Secure Thoughts is helpful. Overall, using both an anti-virus program and a VPN service provides optimal protection against cyberattacks.
3.    Keep Backups
Since you're investing a lot of time and hard work into your manuscripts, it's foolish not to keep a backup. If anything were to happen to your computer, you might not have any way to restore your files. There are several ways this could happen, and not all are caused by hackers or malware (for example, you could have faulty hardware).
Backing up your files can be simple and should be done on a regular basis regardless of how much effort you put into protecting yourself online. Perhaps one of the most popular ways of keeping backups is by using a cloud-based service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Those methods are certainly convenient since you can then access your manuscript from any device quite easily, but there are some people who aren’t very comfortable with them (since your files are in the hands of each company who offers the service).
Another way you can back up your files is by using hardware like SD cards, flash drives and external hard drives. With these, you basically will need to copy your files onto the devices for safe keeping. However, like anything else, it's not a guarantee, and these devices can fail just as any others.
Perhaps the most secure method of backing up your files is to keep more than one copy across multiple devices and/or services. For example, you may prefer to keep a copy on more than one computer, a flash drive and an SD card. However you choose to keep your backups, remember that you'll still need to safeguard them by storing them in a secure place.
4.    Create Strong Passwords
Passwords, whether used to log on to your operating system on your computer or your online accounts, are particularly important. When you have files to protect, it's a good idea to keep your PC password protected at the very least. And if you happen to upload any of them to an online account, these tips will help you as well.
To create a strong password, you need to adhere to the following:
·      Use a combination of numbers and uppercase and lowercase letters
·      Use symbols whenever possible
·      Exclude any personal information
You should also avoid using the same password for multiple accounts and of course never share them with others (even with close friends). Another good way to keep your accounts protected is to always log out when you’re done using them so anyone who may get their hands on your device won’t have easy access to any of them.
5.    Avoid Sharing Your Devices
This tip may not be very realistic for some people, but it’s still a wise idea. Not only can someone accidentally delete your manuscript, but potentially and inadvertently leave your device wide open to cyberattacks as well. Writers should consider keeping a computer for their use only so that it’s less likely for anyone to interfere with their work or flood their hard drive with excess files.
If you certainly must share your device, it’s best to encrypt your files for safe keeping. By doing so, your manuscript will be much more protected overall.
Do you have any additional tips for protecting manuscripts? If so, please share them with us in the comments below.
About the Author: Cassie Phillips is a writer and internet security specialist who takes an interest in helping out fellow writers online. Through her experiences on the net, she's found some of the most effective methods of safeguarding her own documents and enjoys being able to share her knowledge with others so they too can protect their work. 

Follow Cassie on Twitter: @cassie_culture


Kim Smith said...

Great info! thanks so much

Tom Threadgill said...

Thanks for sharing! And I was surprised how many authors I know who've lost work because they didn't keep backups. And I'm a firm believer in keeping a set of backups online somewhere, whether it's Dropbox, Google, or some other spot. Not only is it readily accessible, but there's no danger that you can lose it in a fire or theft.