Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Secure Writer: Safe Computer Practices

You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day …Psalm 91:5 (ESV)
Keep Your Computer Safe

The security log on my router listed a “ping of death” dated two days before. Now, I knew the router was the gizmo that lets me access the Internet on my computer without a wire, but I had no idea what a “ping of death” was. With that name, I knew it couldn’t be anything good, especially since we’d gotten a letter saying our state department of revenue had been hacked and our personal information was one of the thousands compromised.

After doing a little bit of research, I found out that someone was trying to hack my computer, but the firewall had stopped him just like an invisible fortress around my router. I reported the attack to our local Internet provider so they could investigate, but after upgrading the security features on my computer, I rested, somewhat uneasily, in the knowledge that I’d done all I could.

What can you do to keep your manuscript secure? The following are a few things that I've done. If my suggestions are nothing new, just consider them reminders.

Make sure all your software is up-to-date. Whether you use a desktop, laptop, tablet, Mac, or PC, you should make the effort to find out how to update your software. Consult your computer or software home page for more information.

Backup your work.
The best way to do this is by using a off-site program like DropBox, Google Docs or the Cloud. Most of these work by downloading a program to your computer, then when you save your document, it goes directly to that file. Bonus: you can access it anywhere. So if you go to a conference and need to change your proposal, you can open it from the hotel computer, make the changes and print away.

Another alternative is an external hard drive. This is a small box that connects to your computer with a cord or through your router. Depending on the program, you can set it to work on a schedule or only when you connect.

Thumb drives, memory sticks or USB flash drives now come with enough memory to back up your entire computer. If you do use these, be sure to set alerts to remind you to save your work-in-progress. There's nothing worse than the blue screen of death after you've worked all day on a manuscript.

The least expensive (and also least secure) way to backup your manuscript is by emailing a copy to yourself daily. However, the good news is that by doing this you have a record of work if there's ever a question of ownership when if you're audited. Those emails (be sure to set keywords or labels on those emails) will prove that you do consider your writing a business because you have devoted hours of time to your work.

The very best thing to do is a combination of all of the above. Do I sound paranoid? Maybe a little, but I've had computer crashes before where I relied on only one method and still lost work. I'd rather not take a chance.

Security Software
I don't want to start a conversation of Mac vs. PC, but even if you don't have anti-virus or security software, you need to have a firewall in place. Do some research on your computer model or contact your Internet service provider (ISP) for more information and instructions. (Sorry, but it depends on your brand of computer and ISP.)

Are you overwhelmed? I am, too. It's so much to learn, isn't it? But here's the good news: the psalmist was secure in the knowledge that Lord would protect us. In Psalm 91, he says that the Lord will cover us with his wings and command His angels to keep us safe. We never need to worry about denial of service from our Heavenly Father. He will always be there for us.

Just like my router’s firewall, our God protects us from attack. How many times have we been in dire situations and never even known it? Only the Lord knows why there is evil in this world, but He does assure us that we never need to fear it. He will always be with us.

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If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment. I'd love all the help I can get!
About the Author
Angela E. Arndt
Angie Arndt was a corporate trainer before health issues sidelined her. These days she’s active in her local church, ACFW, MBT and Mesu's BFFs. She’s a team member of Seriously Write and writes every Wednesday on her personal blog, Joy on the Back Roads.

Angie is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. She’s currently working on a series of novels set in small Southern towns. She and her husband live in the middle of a big wood outside a small town in South Carolina. They have three large dogs -- well, two large dogs and a very small poodle who thinks he's a large dog.