Computer Security: The Smoking Gun

Computer Security: The Smoking Gun


I receive a phone call from a Fortune 500 company employee.

Me: “Tier One Technology Partners, this is Nick. Can I help you?”

Evan: “Nick? It’s Evan. It’s an emergency! I have a virus and I don’t know how I got it!”

Me: “Evan, I’ll be happy to help you. What does your computer say?”

Evan: “Nothing. I can’t log in!” Evan’s voice is frantic. I check his company’s server. His account is not locked out. His computer is showing as healthy and active.

Me: “Evan, which computer are we looking at?”

Evan: “It’s my personal computer, but I have a lot of work files on it. Can you help?”

There it is: the smoking gun, sitting right in front of us, and I only need to ask one more question to verify this.

Me: “Evan, I need to remote into the computer. What is your password?”

Evan: “It’s ‘password.’”

Evan’s computer had been hacked and then locked as a friendly reminder from the hacker that it would be better for him to change his password. While the hacker has committed a crime, the real crime here was committed by Evan in not considering his own security. Now, his company and his job are on the line because he didn’t think of picking a more secure password, among other issues. Unfortunately, in the IT world, the only evidence that a crime was committed is often ourselves.

We removed several viruses off of Evan’s computer. His browser history did not have anything out of the ordinary in it, but we noted that there was a virus from a link that allowed someone in. Evan did not have an anti-virus, noting that he did not want to spend “$120 a year” on “something that would not work.”

Due to the nature of the files on Evan’s computer, his company was immediately involved.

smoking gun w passwords computer security

Computer Security Tips

If this sounds familiar, whether you are on your couch or at your desk, please review the following:

Your password must be longer than 8 characters. No, it should not be your pet’s name, your child’s name, your spouse’s name, or your favorite hobby. Disassociate your passwords. I have never played badminton. I haven’t touched a badminton birdie since I was walking by a game with my friend Andy when I was 4 years old. My password is: Badminton26! You can’t find badminton or anything referring to it on my Facebook page. I will remember the password because it’s silly and has nothing to do with me. And no, I’m not 26 years old.

If you’re unsure of your password’s strength, go to and type in the password you’re thinking of. Hint: Badminton26! would take 344 thousand years to crack. I think we’re pretty safe. No, you can’t use it, it’s mine.. but since I told it to you, I can’t use it either. Damn.

Buy an anti-virus. Price-wise, anti-viruses have gone down. Purchase something that you can afford, but will not cause your computer to throw fits. I recommend Webroot or Bitdefender for home use. Your company should be responsible for your anti-virus, so make sure that you have it on your work equipment. Prices for the antiviruses mentioned above range from $40 to $60. They may even cover more than one computer at a time.

Talk to your Network Administrator. This may seem silly, but an email to your IT Consultant can help you to tighten up your security, and they can make recommendations for you that will not break the bank.

Overall, take the steps to avoid being the smoking gun for yourself and your company. Every step that you take towards computer security, and defending yourself against cyber-attacks, helps to make you an asset to your company and your home setup.

Nick McCourtArticle contributed by Nick McCourt, IT Consultant, Tier One Technology Partners, a division of MKS&H

About Tier One Technology Partners: MKS&H’s technology consulting group, Tier One Technology Partners provides your growing organization with IT strategy and effective IT services solutions to keep you one step ahead. Tier One was founded in 2000 in the response to listening to the needs of our clients and the business challenges that they were facing in such a rapidly changing IT environment. Thus, Tier One was developed with the simple goal of being an IT consultant, partner, and support firm.

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