Are there any safe computers?

No computer is 100% secure, but some are much better than others. Keep in mind that no computer has security if the user is fooled into calling or clicking on bogus services.

For now, the most secure computers are Google Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, and Apple iPads. Macs have very good security, but I’m seeing more attacks against the Safari browser. Sadly, the days of worry-free Macs are over, as they now need some of the same protections as Windows computers, i.e. a safe browser, effective browser add-ons, and quality anti-virus/anti-malware programs.

If you have to use Windows, you must add a bunch of protective layers, including having an expert check the PC at least twice a year. If you run a business PC and rely on special bookkeeping, database, or other software, it probably should not even be connected to the internet.  You cannot run a Windows computer for more than 3 to 6 months without it being checked, for the same reasons you can’t leave your house unattended for more than a day or two.

In any case, I’m now recommending that you never use a Windows computer for managing financial accounts.  It’s just too risky, and Microsoft has proved itself incapable of fixing the situation for over 10 years.  Many computer experts say Windows security is fine as long as updates are done promptly.  But that’s baloney.  Even the latest Windows 10 and its infamous browsers, Internet Explorer and Edge, continue to have an unending stream of vulnerabilities compared to Unix-style operating systems and leading-edge browsers like Chrome.

Here’s a paraphrased conversation I had with a customer this morning about her Windows 7 computer:

Dr. Steve: Hello, this is Dr. Steve!

Customer: Hi Dr. Steve, I need help with my PC. This is Kathy.  Do you remember me? I know it’s been a while, over two years ago.

Dr. Steve: Yes, hi Kathy, how are you doing?

Customer: My bank called this morning and told me my computer just got hacked, and my account had thousands of dollars stolen from it.  Fortunately my bank knows it’s fraud, and it will cover the loss.

Dr. Steve: That’s terrible! A lot has changed in the past two years. Windows is under major attack. How old is your computer?

Customer: 7 or 8 years. You told me the last time that it was due for replacement.

Dr. Steve: Yes, unfortunately it’s really not worth trying to repair a computer older than 7 years. Not only does Windows have to be re-installed, but all your data and programs have to be recovered and re-installed as well. The repair time ends up costing more than half of what a new PC costs, and 100% of what an alternative costs, like a Chrome or iPad device.

Customer: I can’t afford a new PC.

Dr. Steve: That’s ok, there are more affordable options that are way more secure, like Google Chromebooks and Apple iPads, both in the $300 range.

Customer: Well I do have an iPad, but it doesn’t have all the features I need.

Dr. Steve: You can put a keyboard on an iPad.  You can run Microsoft Office, do email and printing, and install safe browsers.  Most customers are surprised when I tell them that they’re much safer doing finances on an iPad.

Customer: Well I have to go now. I have to leave right away and change all my accounts at the bank.

Dr. Steve: Please feel free to call me about getting a better computer for you.

Customer: Thanks, bye!

Google Will Pay You $100K If You Can Hack a Chromebook

So what do you think of someone that wants to run a car for 7 years with no maintenance and pay only $90 when it finally breaks down? Many people continue to cling to Windows computers, no matter how much suffering it causes.  How long will financial companies cover for accounts that get hacked because of persistently poor Windows PC security? The core truth in all this is that Windows has never been an appropriate system for regular non-geek type people!  I’m so glad we have better choices now than 5 or 10 years ago!

Steve

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