Friday, January 8, 2010

Top 10 Tech #2: Top 10 Ways To Protect Your Windows Pc While Connected To The Internet

TOP 10 WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR WINDOWS PC WHILE CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET
by Dennis Faas
Infopackets.com Senior Editor
http://www.infopackets.com
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This report is written in a general approach to online security, and
is geared toward Windows-based PCs and users. While this report will
not solve all your security issues, it will certainly give you the
upper hand in keeping your PC safe while online the Internet.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Software and Security: General Rule of Thumb
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It is critically important that you *always* keep your software up to
date: this refers to MS Windows (the Operating System), your firewall,
antivirus, and antispyware / antimalware programs.
If you do not update your system regularly, your computer is
immediately vulnerable to Spyware, Viruses, and Hackers. Note that
your computer can be attacked by simply visiting a malicious web page,
clicking a browser link, or even if it's sitting idle while connected
to the Internet.
If there is an open door, someone -- or something -- just may find its
way through.
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1. Do away with Outdated Operating Systems
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you are still using older versions of MS Windows, it's time to
upgrade!
Windows XP and Windows Vista are currently the most secure Windows
Operating Systems available; all previous versions of MS Windows are
no longer supported or updated by Microsoft: what this means is that
even if a security issue with an older version of Windows, Microsoft
will not fix it -- you are on your own.
If you are still using Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 or NT, it is
recommended that you upgrade to the latest Windows operating system to
keep your computer safe from online attacks.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
2. Alternatives to MS Windows
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For older computers that cannot run XP or Vista, we highly recommend
Puppy Linux or Ubuntu Linux Operating Systems. While these OS's are
not Microsoft Windows-based, they operate in similar manner, are
completely free, and best of all: they are updated regularly.
Puppy Linux is extremely compact and especially excellent for older,
slower computer systems. On the other hand, Ubuntu offers more
features and is easiest to migrate from Windows.
http://www.puppylinux.org/
http://www.ubuntu.com/
Both Ubuntu and Puppy Linux offer something called a "Live CD". A Live
CD can be downloaded and recorded onto CD recordable; it contains a
contains a bootable, working copy of the Operating System that can run
without installing it to your system -- so you can test the OS and use
it before you decide to install it.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
3. Update your OS (Operating System)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
All Operating Systems -- whether they are Mac, Windows, or Linux --
need continual updating.
In terms of Windows PCs: Microsoft releases software updates (called
"Windows Updates") which fix security issues within Windows. Some
security issues are critical, while others are simple bug fixes.
To update Windows, click:
http://update.microsoft.com
You can also configure Windows to download updates automatically. See:
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/downloads/windowsupdate/automaticupdate.mspx
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
4. Install a Firewall
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A firewall is an extra layer of security used to protect your computer
from the outside world. A firewall can help (but not eliminate)
attacks against hackers, viruses, and even spyware. Essentially, a
firewall is used to limit / block / monitor the number of open
communication ports on your computer.
Just like any software program (including the Operating System
itself), a firewall must be kept up to date to ensure it is protected
against exploits -- so always install a firewall update if and when it
becomes available.
Windows XP has a firewall built into the Operating System. To turn it
on:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/283673
If you do not own Windows XP or Vista and/or prefer to use an
alternative to the Windows Firewall, we recommend Zone Alarm (Free),
or Commodo Personal Firewall (Free):
http://www.zonealarm.com/store/content/company/products/znalm/freeDownload.jsp
http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com/
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
5. Use a Router (Broadband / High Speed Internet Access Only)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A router is a hardware device that allows you to share Internet with
other computers within your network. A router can also hide your
computer (IP address) from the outside world, making it difficult for
hackers to probe / gain access to your machine. If you own a high
speed Internet connection, it is highly recommended you use a router
to connect to the Internet.
We recommend LinkSys, Netgear and DLink routers. You can purchase a
router from your local electronics store for as little as $20 and up,
depending on capabilities and features.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
6. Use Anti-virus Software
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Anti-virus software scans your computer for viruses; most antivirus
software can also be configured to check incoming and outgoing email
for viruses. As with any program, you need to keep your anti-virus
software up to date -- so make sure it is set to automatically
download and install updates.
For free antivirus, we recommend Grisoft AVG (free) and Avast
Antivirus (free).
http://www.grisoft.com
http://www.avast.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
7. Use Anti-spyware Software
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Spyware is defined as "[often stealthy] computer software that is
installed surreptitiously on a personal computer to intercept or take
partial control over the user's interaction with the computer, without
the user's informed consent." (Source: wikipedia.org).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spyware
Spyware is commonly bundled with 'free' software downloads, attached
to e-mails, or transmitted through networks (including the Internet),
and often appears as legitimate software. Spyware is stealthy by
nature; once installed, Spyware can be nearly impossible to detect and
remove without the help of a dedicated Spyware removal program.
In most cases a firewall and anti-virus software will not prevent
spyware.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Anti-spyware Tips
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
- Be cautious of programs you download and install.
- Never download a program from a unknown source.
- Use antispyware programs to keep your computer clean of spyware.
- Only download antispyware programs from a reputable source. There
are many antispyware scams online the Internet (known as "rogue
antispyware") that dupe users into purchasing their product -- so be
careful which antispyware program you download. See:
http://www.infopackets.com/news/security/2005/20051223_anti_spyware_that_installs_spyware.htm
- Use real time Spyware detection to avoid becoming infected in the
first place. Although there are many free anti-spyware products on the
market that will scan your computer and attempt to remove spyware
*after* your computer has become infected, only a few antispyware
programs can offer real-time spyware protection. Real-time antispyware
protection stops spyware *before* it gets on your computer and does
the damage. For this reason, we recommend Spyware Doctor by PC Tools.
More information:
http://www.infopackets.com/articles/spyware+doctor.htm
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
8. Secure your Wireless Betwork
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you have a Wi-Fi (wireless) network, check the instructions that
came with your router and do the following ensure that you have WPA or
WEP encryption enabled: this prevents unauthorized users from
accessing your network.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
9. Avoid Reading or Clicking on Unsolicited "Spam" Email
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
By simply opening an unsolicited email, spammers can validate your
email address. Once they know your email is valid, they will continue
to send bulk, unsolicited emails. To avoid spam, we recommend using a
WhiteList service offered by 0-Spam.net:
" 0Spam works with POP3 email, Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail accounts ...
0Spam is simply an external service that [operates silently -- much
like a telephone long distance company] or Internet Service provider
... it works by standing in-between your email server(s) and the
Internet, and scans your incoming email for spam and viruses ...
what's left is just pure, legitimate email. "
http://www.infopackets.com/news/internet/2004/20041222_0spam_the_ultimate_free_anti_spam_solution.htm
http://www.infopackets.com/news/internet/2004/20041229_0spam_the_ultimate_free_anti_spam_solution_part_2.htm
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
10. Make Backups
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Always make regular backups of important data -- including your
operating system -- and store it in a safe place.
Note that not all backup programs are the same!
"Regular" file backup programs are fantastic for backing up personal
files such as downloads, documents, emails, pictures, bookmarks, and
the like. The idea behind backing up a file is that you'll have a
duplicate copy in case something goes awry.
That being said, regular file backup is not capable of backing up the
Operating System (Windows). In other words: if your hard drive crashed
or if Windows suddenly became inoperable -- due to a virus or Spyware
attack -- you wouldn't be able to get back into your computer. The
only way to get back around this problem might be to:
* format [erase] the hard drive
* reinstall Windows and download all the updates
* reinstall all your programs
* reinstall the backup software
* restore your data that you backed up previously
In all, that might take 6 to 8 hours to complete (at best) -- not fun.
For the ultimate backup solution, we !strongly! recommend Acronis True
Image. Acronis True Image is true disaster recovery "disk imaging"
software because it can make an *exact* backup of your ENTIRE
computer, including MS Windows, your personal files, and even other
operating systems.
Disk imaging is *FAR* more superior than Windows System Restore and
standard file-by-file backup systems and can revert your computer
system to a previously healthy state within minutes.
I can't stress how wonderful this program is and it's saved my bacon
countless times. If you care at all about your data, you should try
Acronis True Image. Full review:
http://www.infopackets.com/news/software/reviews/2007/20071009_red_hot_acronis_true_image_11_released.htm
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