We are now officially in the “Holiday Season”, so along with those visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in your head, you just might have visions of a super hot, quad core beast, that you can rip the wrapping off of after Santa has dropped down your chimney.
So if you’ve been good this year, and Santa does drop off that new screaming machine, no doubt you’ll want to put it through its paces right away. But before you test drive this new machine, there are some fundamental precautions you need to take before you connect to the Internet.
Patch your operating system:
Download and install all available patches, and service packs – if applicable, by connecting to Windows Update. Security Gurus will tell you that 50% of unpatched, and unprotected systems, will be infected with malicious code within 12 minutes of being connected to the Internet. Believe it!
Install a Firewall:
Windows 7 comes with a vastly improved Firewall – substantially better than in previous versions of the operating system. Still, many techies consider third party applications more effective.
There are a number of free firewalls that are worth considering. The following are three that do the job particularly well. (Choose only one)
Comodo Firewall (last updated November 11, 2010), protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet. I ran with this application for 18 months during a long term test, and I felt very secure.
Having tested this application for more than six months I was impressed with its performance. It installed easily, set up quickly, and did not caused any conflicts on my test machine despite my sometimes esoteric running requirements. The default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for less experience users.
ZoneAlarm’s default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for less experience users particularly. Experienced users on the other hand, can tinker to their hearts content, customizing and tweaking the application to meet their specific requirements.
Install anti-virus software:
There is no doubt that an unprotected computer will become infected by viruses and malware within minutes of first being connected to the Internet. There are many free versions of anti-virus software available, and the programs listed below have a well justified reputation. (Choose only one – although Immunet Protect will run successfully as a companion application).
This anti-virus program offers comprehensive protection with an easy to use interface. In the time that I have been testing Avira I have been impressed with its performance, and I have come to rely on it as my primary anti-virus program on an XP Pro system. I highly recommend this one.
I’ve been testing the Beta version of Panda Cloud Antivirus since the end of April 2009, off and on, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with it’s performance, particularly the light use of system resources. This application is definitely not a resource hog, and I found it outstanding at recognizing and blocking malware threats.
Immunet Protect is a lightweight cloud based antivirus application, (available in both a free, and a fee version), designed to add a layer of protection while working in partnership with the most popular antimalware solutions. You’ll find Immunet Protect straightforward to install, and easy to run without complication.
Install Anti-spyware and Adware Software:
It’s not only a virus that can put your computer down for the count, but a multitude of nasties freely floating on the Internet. Listed below are a number of free programs that offer very good protection against malware.
Microsoft Security Essentials, which incorporates antivirus, antispyware and rootkit protection, all under one roof, was released by Microsoft last year as a free replacement application for Windows Live OneCare. Microsoft Security Essentials is easy to set up and run, particularly for new users. And, the interface is positively simple offering Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan.
Spybot Search & Destroy can detect and remove a multitude of adware files and modules from your computer. Spybot also can clean program and Web-usage tracks from your system, which is especially useful if you share your computer. Modules chosen for removal can be sent directly to the included file shredder, ensuring complete elimination from your system.
ThreatFire blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. Again, this is one of the security applications that forms part of my front line defenses. I have found it to have high success rate at blocking mal-ware based on analysis of behavior. I highly recommend this one!
Additional security protection:
WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on which tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.
SpywareBlaster prevents ActiveX-based spyware, adware, dialers, and browser hijackers from installing on your system by disabling the CLSIDs (a system used by software applications to identify a file or other item), of spyware ActiveX controls. As well, SpywareBlaster can block spyware/tracking cookies and restrict the actions of spyware/adware/tracking sites in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and other browsers.
With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs. You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.
SpyShelter is an anti-keylogging, anti-spyware program that protects your data from Keylogging and spy programs: known, unknown, and under-development. It detects and blocks dangerous and malicious programs, to help ensure that your data cannot be stolen by cyber criminals.
Note: Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for lack of experience, and intuitiveness, when surfing the Internet. So, I’ll repeat what I have said here, many times – “knowledge, awareness, and experience are critical ingredients in the escalating battle, against cybercriminals.”
This list is not exhaustive by any means, but it is a good place to start.
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