Applications and security updates for personal and small to medium business users

Keeping secure with the latest software updates can be quite a challenge.  Similarly, working out what software packages to use can be just as confusing. In this post we aim to show you a couple of great software packages and a few simple methods you can use that we hope will help keep you safe and up-to-date.

  • Best Free Anti-virus - In our experience, we have found there are a couple of great anti-virus packages out there. We really feel this however is the BEST of them.
  • Google Chrome Installation or Update - There are a myriad of web browsers available. We feel Chrome is the outstanding winner.
  • Microsoft / Java / Adobe / Google / Firefox Updates  (Do monthly, sometimes fortnightly) - Updates can be time consuming and fiddly, but everyone needs to do these to stay current with the latest updates to protect our systems. Our advice is to update now, or you'll end up suffering later.
  • Cloud Storage - Amazing services that allow you to perform file copies and backups to keep some of your precious files safely saved away for emergencies.
  • Cloud File Sharing (typically with large files) - Secure file storage services that allow you to upload large files to the cloud without complicating things for people when you want to *simply* email attachments.
  • 2-Factor Authentication - refers to an extra step you need to undertake when logging into an application. It means you'll need to confirm you're logging in to a new browser or device usually with a second device like a mobile phone. It means an extra step, to authenticate rather than the standard single step of entering only your username and password, but will usually protect you from hackers and many other risks.

Best Free Anti-virus

After hundreds of Server AND Workstation installations, we are really sold on Bit Defender. It is far better protection than anything else out there right now. If you are NOT CURRENTLY using Bit Defender (applies to personal users in this case), RACS recommends that you consider Bit Defender. To do this you will need to remove the current anti-virus you have installed, reboot, download and install Bit Defender from the link below. This assumes that your current IT advisor does not have something in place for you already of course. There are a number of good packages out there, but RACS feel this is the best FREE anti-virus package currently.

This is completely FREE. There is a requirement after install, the software wants you to create a "My Bit Defender" login within 30 days. Proceed and create/join/login. It is safe to do so.

Install Bit Defender

Download and install from the green "Free Download" button.
We have still not seen any free only for personal use caveats to date.

Google Chrome Installation or Update

Chrome Browser is simply amazing!  We do not want to get into any debates or browser wars about the ups and downs of ALL of the browsers available, but generally speaking Chrome is superior to other browsers thanks to security, speed and features.

Download the latest version. After downloading it, you will need to close/exit chrome and then navigate to your downloads folder to run/install the new download.

NB: This is a GB-English (UK) edition, NOT USA version. We are often asked why our Australian users have to conform to what we consider incorrectly spelled words! Downloading the English GB or UK version solves this issue.

Microsoft / Java / Adobe / Google / Firefox Updates

All of these updates should be completed monthly, sometimes fortnightly. Most computer users really dislike updating, but to stay safe and secure we strongly advise that you undertake the updates or your system can potentially suffer at a later stage.

You will find that you need to deal with updates from the software vendors (ISV's) almost weekly but again these are necessary to give your system every chance of staying secure and safe.

Microsoft Updates

Windows 7/8 Users - Control Panel Windows Update – Check for new updates

Windows XP Users - click here (REQUIRES Microsoft Internet Explorer).

Don’t install optional updates – just the critical ones.

A piece of technical advice:  As author of this post, I am not going to take any criticism on board for this next line!  This is my own choice and my advice. Please do not see this as dissing the competition, but rather my advice for staying safer. It is best NOT to use Microsoft Internet Explorer when possible as it has more ongoing security issues on average than other browsers. Firefox is a better browser than Microsoft Internet Explorer in our opinion but it can have other complexities that are more "techy" in nature and for this reason tends to appeal more to IT techs and developers.

FireFox update

If you're using FireFox browser, to update it to the latest version from the main toolbar choose  – HelpAboutUpdate

Google Chrome UPDATE

The safest browser available for the laymen - we HIGHLY RECOMMEND you try this if you are not already using it 

Download Chrome Browser: If you do not have it you can download the UK/GB (for Australian spelling ) version.

Once installed, keeping Chrome up-to-date is similar to FireFox detailed above ~
Menu – About Google ChromeUpdate

Oracle Java Updates

Oracle Java is sometimes required for other programs installed which you may not realise. Programs like the ATO BAS login just to name one. It is critical that this is kept up-to-date (in some ways the most important item in this list). We recommend a slightly different approach to most to ensure old versions are not left installed as a potential target -

Control Panel
Add/Remove Programs (Windows XP)
Programs and Features (Windows 7/8)
Remove Java (V6 and V7) from Control Panel - Add/Remove Programs
Remove Java 64 bit (V6 and V7) from Control Panel - Add/Remove Programs
Now you are free to download the latest and install -
Download and install this as a replacement for the above removed items - Most users require ONLY this version at the top of the list - "Windows Offline (32-bit)"

Adobe Software updates

Adobe also has become a very high profile target for hackers unfortunately. ADOBE FLASH IS NOT REQUIRED if you are using ONLY Google Chrome. You can usually IGNORE the next steps if you are using Google Chrome. Some software still requires Adobe FLASH for Windows applications, if this is the case proceed with the instructions below. For users using Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader we would recommend removing it completely and email us for a viable alternative. We feel Adobe Acrobat Reader is too dangerous to use currently. We primarily use PDF-XChange PDF Reader

Control Panel
Add/Remove Programs (Windows XP)
Programs and Features (Windows 7/8)
Remove Adobe Flash Player ActiveX from Control Panel - Add/Remove Programs
Remove Adobe Flash Player Plugin from Control Panel - Add/Remove Programs
Now you are free to download the latest and install -
Download and install these as replacements for the above removed items

Flash Plugin for Firefox
Flash (ActiveX) for Internet Explorer

Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage - Amazing services that you can perform file/storage backups to that allow you to keep some of your precious files safely saved away for emergencies. We have tested a lot of these tools recently and we are seeing more and more out there. Choosing the right cloud storage that is safe/secure/trusted can be confusing. I am including a list below of storage we currently have in our OK/TRUSTED Category of software. ALL ARE FREE. Most  of the below items even include Desktop File/Folder Sync software.
FREE - DropBox  2GB to 14GB per user of FREE storage in the Cloud
FREE - Microsoft SkyDrive 7GB per user of FREE storage in the Cloud. Requires a passport identity from Microsoft Passport Site. A Microsoft Passport Identity is typically most peoples MSN Messenger login.
FREE - Google Drive  5GB per user of FREE storage in the Cloud
FREE - SugarSync  5GB per user of FREE storage in the Cloud
FREE - Amazon Cloud Drive  5GB per user of FREE storage in the Cloud
FREE - Box  5GB per user of FREE storage in the Cloud
FREE - Mega  50GB per user of FREE storage in the Cloud

Cloud File Sharing

Secure file storage services that allow you to upload large files to the cloud without complicating things for people you want to simply email a large file(s). Below are two free/safe/secure resources you can also use when you need to send a large file to someone that is too big to be practical to send by email. 

FREE  - We Transfer Up to 2 GB per file of FREE temporary storage in the cloud for transferring files to others - files are deleted after 14 days
FREE - Mega  Unlimited FREE temporary storage in the cloud for transferring files to others

2-Factor Authentication - Security Tips

Another way to securely enhance your log in details online is to use two-factor authentication. This creates an additional step to gaining access to your online accounts. Two factor authentication usually requires ~

  • 1. Something you know, like your password
  • 2. Something you have, like your mobile phone

An example of logging into an online site or application with two factor authentication — after you enter your username and password, a second code can be sent to your mobile phone. Only after entering the second code will you be able to gain access to your online account or application.

In simple terms this means that your mobile phone is the extra component apart from just username and password. You are not prompted every time once this is enabled. Usually it remembers the browser, computer or device you are using once you have verified it using a code sent to your mobile by SMS or Google Authenticator. Typically this protects you from someone who may look over your shoulder while you logged in and simply think they can use the same username and password from a different computer. They will get a nasty surprise if they try! It also adds an extra layer of protection from online hackers as they need the third log in credential from your mobile phone.

PLEASE consider enabling 2-factor authentication for at a minimum Google, Facebook and DropBox if you are not already doing so. We are seeing a lot of hacks lately. Adding this extra step will almost make you hack-proof for these popular online services.

Google 2-step Verification
Microsoft 2-step Verification
Twitter Login Verification
Apple 2-step Verification

Facebook Login Approvals
DropBox two-step Verification 
Linked-in two-step Verification


Banks currently do not offer 2-factor authentication for every transaction or device, but they do cater for this with external account transfers. USE IT IF YOU HAVE IT AVAILABLE !!

General log in advice

You may believe that because you have secured a log in to an application online with your own username and password that this protects you from being vulnerable to someone gaining access to your online account(s). Unfortunately, in today’s online world, passwords can be easily decrypted with hackers and other unwanted people using tools which can gain crack passwords very quickly. As always we suggest the following when you create a password ~

  • Avoid using simple passwords based on dictionary words
  • Never use the same password on multiple sites or services
  • Never click on 'reset password' links/requests in emails - instead go directly to the service using a manually typed URL into a browser
  • Never leave it blank!
  • Use minimum 8 chars (preferably 10) with a mix of upper case, lower case, symbols and numbers - e.g. Donuts123$
  • Do not use names familiar to you, God, love, sex, wife, pets or kids names, maiden names etc.

In summary

Two factor authentication is a lot more secure than using a password and takes that extra security step to keep undesirables out of your accounts and applications.

Roy Adams 04-Mar-2013 0 Comments
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