Writing and Banking Do Not Belong Together

The mantra “writing time is for writing and only writing” is drilled into the mindset of anyone serious about succeeding as a author. But let’s take it one step further, “your writing laptop is for writing and only writing.”

Now you’re thinking why on earth would you limit the use of a computer to one task. In a word, security. Writers today are mobile. Working at coffee houses, favorite sandwich shop, waiting on flights at the airport, or sitting in the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment. All of these scenarios are opportunity for a thief to strike.

The obvious threat is that someone steals your laptop. If you use it for everything, you’ve lost everything. This includes any user IDs and passwords stored in your browser. A bad guy just needs to click on your banking bookmark and sit back while your browser automatically logs in. Presto they have full access to your accounts.

A hidden threat of using your laptop on a public network is getting hacked. The quiet guy in the corner could be scanning the coffee house’s public network. Even if you’re running a firewall, it has to allow your programs to interact with the Internet. The industry refers to this a punching a hole. If you punch a hole in a section of cardboard does it only allow you to see through it in one direction? This may be a bit  simplified, but you get the idea. If you let programs out through your firewall, data usually comes back through the same way. Given the right circumstances, a hacker and exploit this. Even if you update your computer’s OS and programs on a regular basis, hackers can also exploit known flaws. Years ago the Blaster Worm exploited an existing security hole affecting part of Microsoft’s Windows OS and impacted computers all over the world.

 

I’m not trying to scare anyone, but think about what would happen if your laptop disappeared. What information would go with it? Do you know all your IDs and passwords to every account you use your laptop to access? Do you have the phone numbers to these institutions to call and have your online account disabled?

What are some steps you can take? An easy one is do not store usernames, IDs, or passwords in your browser. Storing them in your browser creates a file on your computer containing this information. Hackers can access these files and thus your accounts. You can use password programs like LastPass to store your information. Programs like this remember your IDs and passwords, but do not store information locally. I’m partial to LastPass because it has the added benefit of working on multiple platforms. No matter what device I’m using, I can find the password I need.

The best thing to do is to separate your financial information from the laptop you carry with you. Today you can buy a basic laptop in the $300-$400 range. If you’re really thrifty and shop around, you can get something for around $200, but you’ll have to be dedicated to find these bargins. Think of it as insurance. A small investment to ensure that your information is safe. After all, you wouldn’t carry around your bank statements to the coffee shop and leave them on the table for all to see. Why do the electronic equivalent with your laptop?

Word processing files can be backed up with little effort and this topic will be explored in a future post. However, once money is drained from your checking or retirement account, it’s gone. You may be able to recover some of it, but in the short term you’ll have no cash and you’ll have the stress of dealing a complete preventable mess. And if you’re stressed and on the phone with your bank all day, you won’t be able to write. And if you don’t write you won’t sell anything. Then you’ll have even less money and more stress.

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Filed under Best Practices, Writing

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