Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Improving data security is best done by keeping anti-malware scans up to date, and practicing safe internet policy.

I'm doing financial work. How safe is it if the program and specifically the data are never actually written to disk except when doing operations?

In this excerpt from Answercast #99 I look at the idea of minimizing the time that data is used and whether it will make you more safe on the internet.

Improving data security

Well, it's a little unclear as to exactly what you mean by "doing operations" but I will say this: it's no more or less safe than any other time.

The fact is that if malware compromises your computer it can basically do anything! That means that it can access the data that's stored on your disk; it could access the data that's being processed in RAM. It can do a lot of stuff.

Avoid malware

So, the best thing by far is to, naturally, avoid malware. Do all of the things that it takes to keep your computer safe on the internet. Run anti-malware scans. Make sure you're behind a firewall. Keep your system up to date.

Use good behavior - that's probably the single most important thing. Don't download things you're not supposed to download; you know the drill; right?

This is all pretty much internet common sense these days. So I'll point you at the article, "Internet Safety: How do I keep my computer safe on the internet?" but to specifically answer your question, I don't think the kinds of things that I think you're describing actually make a difference.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6363 - March 24, 2013 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

March 24, 2013 8:02 PM

Related, but unsure if this will help the questioner:
I use Windows for most of my online activity. For banking, I use a live Linux disk, with a firewall. I know the disk is clean, and if there's anything nasty in my Windows OS, it has no effect while I'm in Linux.

March 26, 2013 12:11 PM

Also important to know about what the questioner is doing. To me it sounds like they are using software for financial purposes (Quicken, etc). If they are never saving it to the disk, then any power outage is gonna lose everything they have been working on. Ironic thing is that this just happened to my office mate about 5 minutes ago.

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