BATS Lessons: 3 Easy Steps That Will Protect Your Computer

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's a sign of our times: When disaster strikes, like the BATS trading fiasco last Friday, my thoughts wander from human error to human intent.

I do not wander alone.

"It's the first thing that comes to my mind," says Logan Scott, principal of LS Consulting, who was kind enough to walk me through the intricacies of how positional systems like GPS can be used to compromise a trading networks like BATS. "I ask, was something compromised when trading failed?"

Worse, it's not just computer-driven trading networks. These days, all business computer networks face strange new threats.

"The same technologies Google uses to make cloud computing cheap, criminals now use to make compromising a computer cheap," says Stefan Savage, professor of computer science at the University of San Diego.

That means, friends, no business PC or Mac is attack proof. You got that right, my Apple brethren, those glory days when we did not have to worry about computer security are over. Lots can go wrong with an Apple product.

The good news is, experts agree that upgrading the security-readiness of your business network is not the dark art it used to be.

>>Also see: How to Keep Your PC Safe From Hackers

Assuming you are running up-to-date virus software from a known maker like Symantec, or Intel's McAfee, here are three simple steps you can take this minute to keep your shop from being the next meltdown on the Internet playground.

1. Run the most current operating system for every PC and Mac you own. Listen up, Windows XP/MAC OS 8 users: Holding onto an outdated computer is about the dumbest thing you can do. Why? Older software is not as actively supported as it should be by either Microsoft or Apple. So attackers find new exploits for these geezer PCs all the time.

Upgrading a computer is no longer a nightmare. My little digital world uses both an ancient Pentium 4 Dell and a vintage Apple MacBook, both with up-to-date, upgraded operating systems. A cheap desktop costs just $300 these days. There really is no excuse for having an outdated computer. So get rid of 'em.

2. Upgrade your software early and often. Avoid the next big disaster by keeping all software up to date. Enable the automatic upgrades for desktop code like Adobe Flash or HP printer software. And make sure Web-based tools like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and others are current. The killers here are all little nuggets of code called plug-ins. They go out of date instantly and are classic avenues of exploit. I like a tool called Qualys BrowserCheck that automatically scans your browsers for upgrades. Download and use it right now.

3. For crying out loud, don't be an administrator. You wisely decided to stay out of politics in real life. So do the same with work life. Be sure there is one single "administrator" identity on a computer and then use it as little as possible. In other words, do your work in an account that does not have administrator privileges over a PC. That way, if you do step into digital you-know-what, its tougher for an attacker to do real damage with your computer. So, right this instant, go to the guts of your computer, create a fresh identity -- if you don't know how, ask me and I'll tell you -- then work from that account.

Take these three steps -- you can easily do your OS upgrade during lunch -- and by the end of the day your computer, and your business, will be much, much safer.

Then you can do more important things, like go out and make yourself some money.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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