By G. Anthonie Riis | Fort Knox NewsJanuary 22, 2020
Are you working with the same lethargic computer and cumbersome system you had last year?
If so, the Fort Knox Network Enterprise Center is suggesting that your problems might be starting at your individual workstation --better computer habits might help get things on the right track.
"A leading reason for poor computer performance is that the system is not [regularly] updated or isn't in compliance with required configurations settings," said Brian DeLap, an information assurance compliance tech with NEC. "Most issues can be corrected with a simple reboot."
While this approach may make sense to users, it's possible some may not realize that they're forgetting to take these appropriate steps.
"The 'dot-com' world is one thing, and people tend to close their computers or let them 'sleep,'" said Richard Jackson, Cyber Security Division chief with NEC. "But on the installation, we take care of patching, updating and scanning the systems weekly for compliance after hours. Our biggest problem is users who don't have their systems [ready] and available for us."
Jackson said that without properly rebooting the system, a computer is perpetually storing information, filling up its memory banks.
"Some applications will consume all the computer's memory in a week or two, and you're running on next to nothing," Jackson said. "When you restart, it clears all the memory and restarts the applications. You're starting the process with freed-up memory."
Jackson instructed users to select the Windows emblem in the bottom left corner and hover over the top selection near their name. They'll then choose 'Log out.' Jackson said users may also select, 'Restart' after the Windows emblem, as well.
Getting to work before your computer is fully awake may yield sluggish results Jackson said.
"When you restart in the morning, give your computer time to restart all its systems," he continued. "After you're logged in, give it additional time to start up all your applications: your antivirus, your active client, and your email. Enjoy your cup of coffee while you let everything get up and running before you start your day."
DeLap explained that what's good for a workstation is even better for the whole network.
"Systems have multiple programs running -- both those started by the user and started by the system -- and a properly running system should be a boon to the user, the organization and to the nation," he said. "A system that is not regularly updated or is not in compliance with required configurations settings can be used as an access point into the network by 'bad actors.'"
According to Jackson, a bad actor may be anyone from an individual to a nation state with evil intentions.
"Some [attacks] are geared toward individuals and taking their information or stealing their identity. Sometimes [hackers] encrypt your hard drive or files and they hold it in ransom to blackmail you," Jackson said. "A worst-case scenario would be an attrition of data off the system that might be used nefariously to deny services or break down passwords to gain access [to information or systems.]
"It could just go deeper and deeper, depending on what was compromised and what their purposes were."
DeLap added that avoiding malicious sites is also key to keeping a computer functioning and maintaining cybersecurity.
"There are thousands of websites that have been compromised, or are hosted by these 'bad actors,' that can infect computers," he said. "Be cognizant of social media and sites that post personal data, and report any observed issues to the unit information management officer."
Besides rebooting daily, properly logging out at night, and avoiding potentially malicious websites, DeLap and Jackson also advise users to never click links provided in emails; instead, verify any link by first copying the link and pasting it to a search browser to view.
"If your computer runs well and is up-to-date with all the patches and antivirus, you're less susceptible to malicious code and malicious actions on your systems," Jackson said. "A functional computer has a higher likelihood of being a protected computer."