A Defensive Computing Checklist    by Michael Horowitz
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ABOUT THIS WEBSITE

What is Defensive Computing, as I see it?

Privacy, of course. Security too. Software to use and software to avoid. Companies to use and companies to avoid. Planning ahead of time for bad things to happen.

But more than just that, it is also just being aware of things, of how the computing world works. Being aware of the Rules of the Road, common scams and scam techniques.

Knowing, for example, that Microsoft never calls people at home when they have a virus on their computer. Amazon, on the other hand, does sometimes contact their customers out of the blue (the Amazon topic explains the circumstances when they do). So, knowing when to trust (rarely) and when not to trust (most of the time).

There are many websites devoted to privacy and many devoted to security. But each is only a piece of the Defensive Computing puzzle.

This site will never be popular. Screaming THINGS ARE BAD! THINGS ARE BAD! gets attention. Offering people dull and boring errands to protect and educate themselves gets none. So, good for you for finding this site in the first place.

I suggest that non-techies start with the Rules of the Road page.

No website like this can ever be complete, nor would anyone want it to be complete as that list would never end. I tried to limit this to the most important issues.

The world is always changing, so some of the information here will surely be outdated. If you find anything wrong, please let me know. If you think something is missing, let me know.

Two pages on the site are MUCH more than checklists. The Domain Name Rules page offers an explanation of the rules for domain names and many examples of the tricks that bad guys use. People that know all this should be resistant to many assorted scams. The VPN page is also much more than a checklist.

In terms of ads/tracking, this site is as clean as clean gets. There are no ads. There are no trackers. It does not set any cookies. All the source comes from one domain. None of the links here are affiliate links, I do not profit from this site in any way. No need to believe me. You can test for setting cookies at cookieserve.com. Here is a screen shot of the clean bill of health. You can also test at Blacklight a website privacy inspector from The Markup. You can click here to run a live test of this site. For reference, here is a screen shot of a Blacklight scan from Sept. 23, 2020. If you see any ads here, something (your computer, browser or router) has been hacked.

That said, there are some display issues when the site is viewed on small screens, such as phones and tablets. I have not spent much time on these HTML quirks as the site is a hobby not a job.

The site started small, a single webpage. But, then it grew and grew and grew. For a while, the home/only page was huge. So, I started moving topics to their own page. As of January 2024 there are still many topics on the old home page. I (slowly) continue to move these leftover topics into their own pages. In early January 2024, I replaced the old home page with the current Full Index page.

One side affect of moving topics into their own pages is that the Page Creation date in the footer is often wrong. While it is technically correct in terms of when the web page was created, the content on the page was usually created earlier.

MY MOTIVATION

I started this site in March 2019. Why?

Back in the 1970s, Jim Bouton wrote a book called "Ball Four" that told the inside story about what it was like to be a major league baseball player, and about the players themselves, including many un-flattering aspects. He offered a new perspective on baseball. People need a new perspective on computing.

Some of the advice offered to the public is flatly wrong. Even when people mean well, they are often mis-informed or merely parroting back an accepted principal. Perhaps the most famous advice that turned out to be wrong, was the suggestion to periodically change your passwords. Ugh. Then too, advice from techies is typically right for other techies, but wrong for the general public.

And that brings me to the mainstream media, which is frequently wrong both by commission and by omission. Far too many articles are written by Art History majors, who are covering tech this year, after covering some other beat previously and before they move on to yet another area. Very few large media stories (I'm looking at you WaPo, WSJ and NY Times) are written by actual nerds. They don't even seem to be reviewed by qualified experts. Case in point from July 2019: A report came out about web browser extensions that spy on you. This triggered long articles in the Washington Post and Ars Technica. Neither article suggested using a Chromebook, where Guest mode does not allow any extensions. I could go on and on and on . . .

8 billion websites and this is the only one on Defensive Computing. Go figure.

SAFE SPACE

This site is as clean as clean gets. There are no ads. There are no trackers. It does not set any cookies. None of the links here are affiliate links. I do not profit from this site in any way. If you see any ads here, something (your computer, browser or router) has been hacked.

You can test websites at Blacklight, a website privacy inspector from The Markup. Click here to run a live Blacklight test of this site.

You can also test for setting cookies at cookieserve.com. To run a live test of this site at CookieServe, click here.

You can also test websites at VirusTotal. A test on January 10, 2024 reported that 90 of 91 vendors gave this site a clean bill of health. The one down vote (a false positive in my opinion) came from Seclookup. See the report.

WRAPPING UP

All the credit/blame for this site falls on me, Michael Horowitz. If I left out anything important, or something is not clear, let me know at defensivecomputing -at- michaelhorowitz dot com. Also, if you find any of this too advanced or too mired in buzzwords, let me know.

Why trust me? I am a retired techie (About Me) with nothing to sell. I have been interested in Defensive Computing for a very long time. I blogged about it for a year at CNET and 9 years at ComputerWorld. If you do a Google search for "Defensive Computing", I am all over the first page of results.

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