Basic Computer Security Precautions You Need To Know
Those of us who are involved in Internet and system security know, and have known for a considerable time, that cyber-crooks are unrelenting in their chase to steal your money, or to cause havoc of all descriptions on unaware computer users machines with malware of every stripe and color: Trojans, Spyware, Viruses, Phishing Scams, and Identity Theft.
Anti-malware developers are constantly challenged to stay ahead of the curve, develop new techniques, appliances and applications to protect Web sites, and attached devices, including your computer and operating system, from hackers, cyber-crooks, malware and soon to become apparent, terrorists.
Generally, understated in this battle, is the responsibility individual computer users have to to educate themselves with respect to the constantly evolving threats on the Internet. Web sites that carry advertising seem to be unreasonably concerned with not upsetting the status quo. I don’t carry advertising here and my income is not dependant on this site so…….
Listen up – just as you have a responsibility to care for and protect the neighborhood in which you live, you have the same responsibility to care for, and protect, your Internet neighborhood. You do not have choices in this – opting out is not an option!
In dealing with Internet security issues, I’m often frustratingly reminded of the “head in the sand syndrome” exhibited by undereducated computer users – if I ignore it will go away, if I ignore it then it can’t be real, if I ignore it will get better soon.
If you are one of those “it will get better soon” believers, here’s a News Flash for you – it will not get better soon; it will only get worse – much worse.
We live in a world where it’s permissible to blame misfortune on the unknown “someone else”. It’s always someone else’s fault. Here’s the unvarnished truth – if your computer gets infected while connected to the Internet, or you fall victim to an email scam, it’s simple; it’s virtually certain it’s your fault.
If you are unfamiliar with the security issues we now all have to deal with on the Internet, you have a responsibility to educate yourself, and as a start you must take the following steps to insure you, and your computer, will be safe while you surf the Internet.
Minimum security precautions:
Patch your operating system. Download and install all available patches and service packs by connecting to Windows Update.
It is now beyond dispute that 50% of unpatched and unprotected systems will be infected with malicious code within 12 minutes of being connected to the Internet.
Install a firewall.
Windows XP comes with a basic firewall, and if you are running Windows Vista, it comes with a more robust firewall (Windows Firewall) than XP, as well as anti-spyware utilities (Windows Defender). However, a common consensus is; third party applications are usually more effective. Keep in mind that the XP firewall offers only minimal protection.
Choosing a firewall.
There are a number of free firewalls that are worth considering. The following are two that do the job particularly well.
I have been using this application for 14 months and I continue to feel very secure. It resists being forcibly terminated and it works as well, or better, than any firewall I’ve paid for. This is one I highly recommend. Amazing that it’s free!
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 that have a well justified reputation are listed below.
An important feature is a boot-time scan option, which removes mal-ware that can’t be removed any other way. I’m now running this application on a Windows 7 machine – works perfectly!
In the ten months 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.
I highly recommend this one.
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.
Having tested virtually all of the major anti-spyware applications over the past year or more, I’ve settled, for now, on Spyware Terminator primarily due to its strong real-time protection against spyware, adware, Trojans, key-loggers, home page hijackers and other malware threats.
Spyware Terminator excels in strong active protection against known and unknown threats. If anything, I find it perhaps a little overly aggressive. On the other hand, better this than the alternative.
This free version of the award winning program, with its easy to use interface, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers; it’s reported there are a million+ additional downloads every week.
Be aware however, there is no real-time protection offered with this version and for this reason I recommend this application as a secondary scanner only.
It does a relatively good job of protecting against known data-mining, Trojans, dialers, malware, browser hijackers and tracking components.
The only downside with the free version is real-time protection is not included.
If you are now on the Internet, and you have not yet taking the precautions as outlined above, you are extremely vulnerable and it is critical that you take the following precautions:
Stop surfing the Web and patch your operating system. Only then download the protective software as noted above, or software that you are familiar with that will do an appropriate job of protecting your computer.
Do not visit any other websites until you have done this.
Additional security precautions:
Establish a password for the administrator account. Only you should have access to the administrator settings on your PC. Unfortunately, XP installs with open access to the administrator’s account. Be sure to change this.
Create a new password protected user account. Using this account for your general day-to-day activities adds another layer of protection to your computer. A user account does not have the same all-access permissions as your administrator account, and in many cases this extra layer of protection will restrict malware from gaining a foothold on your PC.
For information on even more free computer security applications, see “ The Best Free Spyware, Virus, and Browser Protection” on this site.