Don’t put your family at risk

How easy is it to fall into the trap of cyber-criminals? Get one’s online banking password stolen? Lose photos to third parties? It's easier than you think. One single click to open a malicious attachment or a malicious web page is sufficient to put your family at risk.


Sometimes adversaries even call you in order to get their malicious job done. Once their malware is installed on your home computer, it records all your activity, monitors your online banking activities, steals your passwords, activates your computer’s microphone and camera, and sends all that data back to the adversary. This person can now do whatever they want: take money from your bank account, order books with your Amazon password, deface your Facebook profiles, send strange messages to your peers, or post the captured images of your daughter in front of the computer on dodgy web sites. Not only can you lose (lots of!) money, but having strange messages sent on your behalf and your private images made public can also be very embarrassing.

So don’t put your family at risk! Think of the security of your computers at home! Our advice for protecting networks and  computers at CERN also holds for usage at home: restrict access, patch and run anti-virus software, keep your password to yourself, and stop – think – click before accessing untrustworthy websites. Here are a few helpful hints to make your family’s life more secure.

If you run your own wireless access point (a hardware box connected to your telephone line), ensure that communication is encrypted using at least the WPA2 protocol and a strong password. This will protect you and your family from someone piggy-backing on your network connection. Wireless security protocols like “WPA” or “WEP” can easily be broken. Also make sure that the hardware’s firmware is always up-to-date. Usually you can do both from the configuration menu of your wireless access point.

For patching:

  • If you have a personal computer with your own Windows operating system, check for “Windows Update” in the programme listing of the Start button. Switch to the recommended “automatic” updating method!
  • On Linux distributions, make sure that you regularly run “yum update”, or even better, enable automatic updates. Don’t forget to reboot your computer when a new kernel is installed, in order to properly apply kernel patches!
  • For Apple Macs, use the software update mechanism which is accessible under the Apple menu.


The CERN anti-virus software for Windows and Mac can also be used at home - for free! Also, ensure that you also regularly update your Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash, Java and all the others. If you are in doubt (and are running a Windows system), you can install and run this fine programme from Secunia which checks your computer for outdated software.

Concerning your password, choose it with care and do not use the same password for different sites including CERN. Have a look at CERN’s password rules, which also apply to your home usage. Take particular care of your online banking password! For better protection, banks usually employ an additional hardware token for online banking (which is why you have a small USB pocket calculator). Eventually, you might want to use similar techniques for your Google+ (called “GAuth”) or Facebook account.

Did we mention it before? Stop – think – click when browsing the web. Visit only the sites you deem trustworthy!

Finally, share this information with your spouse and kids. Tell them all! Make them aware of the risks of using a computer connected to the Internet, and remember that “computer security” is like road safety education, looking left-right-left when crossing a road. If you would like to learn more, click here for some easy online courses that delve deeper into this subject.

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by Computer Security Team