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The Expert, No Nonsense Tips On Keeping Your PC Secure – III

Hi,

Welcome to the blog again.

Whether you are a student, individual doing business, professional working in an office or a user using PC for fun or for day-to-day activities, it has become really critical to keep your computer secure from offline and online threats from hackers etc. I have already covered some of the computer security tips in my previous two posts of this series. These two posts are at -

http://www.pctipstricks.com/?p=30 (Part II)

http://www.pctipstricks.com/?p=29 (Part I)

The list of security tips that have been covered by me in these two posts are:

- Deployment of a physical locking mechanism to prevent complete PC and data from being stolen

- Setting system password in CMOS for entering a password prior to the booting

- Using fingerprint biometric scanning to make authentication method more secure

- Using password in Microsoft Windows to login

- Employing CMOS Supervisor Password to not let everyone change your boot sequence settings

- Disabling boot devices other than hard disk in your CMOS

- Configuring a Screen Saver that requires password

- Disabling sharing of hard disk/s and other storage devices or setting up a password to access them

I know that it’s a long list and going to be more longer with this post but believe me, all of these tips are really worth reading and implementing, depending upon your work environment. Office users having more sensitive and confidential data need to take more security precautions compared to a student or housewife using PC for educational and general routine tasks respectively. It ultimately depends on how valuable you rate the data on your PC; if you can’t afford to loose it then you will pay more attention to its security, right?

Some more tips to improve your computer security are as following:

1. Use an Anti Virus

Protecting PC from viruses – programs designed to corrupt files and cause data loss by infecting other computers, is really a primary task when talking of security of a PC. There have been incidents where users have lost years of data due to virus infection as they were not having any anti virus on their PC.

You may either buy an anti virus (check the online reviews till I write one to find the best one) or use a free one, don’t forget to scan your PC and update the anti virus software regularly (at least once in a week when your PC is free). Explore the anti virus program settings and see if online email scanning, heuristic scanning, alert options and auto update settings etc. (if there) are enabled.

You can either buy anti-virus software or go for AVG personal edition, the free one, available at:

http://free.avg.com/ww.download-avg-anti-virus-free-edition#tba2

This free program has limitations in terms of features and you must see if you can manage without paying for the paid one. I have earlier used this free version of AVG and never faced any virus related issue.

2. Use Anti-Spyware Software

Your computer is not secure if you are being – tracked for the sites you are visiting, redirected to other sites and your chat and email sessions are monitored by the keystrokes pressed by you and transmitted somewhere else without your knowledge. Your privacy is in danger if you have spyware on your PC. Spyware also makes your PC slow by displaying unnecessary popup advertisements and using your computer resources to take traffic to some of the sites programmed by the spyware developer. Spyware is not meant for doing any good to you, there is dialer spyware that can make your modem dial a remote premium level number instead of your ISP, resulting in very high telephone charges to you. The main intention of getting spyware developed by the marketing companies is to make money at people expense.

Spyware can also modify your system software files, especially Windows (due to wide users usage) making your OS extremely slow and unusable leaving no other option, except re-installation.

My tip would be not to install any software on your PC unless you are sure of its credibility. There are lot of free programs that have spyware hidden in it. Read reviews before installing any such software and keep your browser security high so that you get alerts before any such program installation while surfing the Net. If your browser security is low, then you will not get any popup alert and the spyware will get installed without you being aware of it.

Spyware is a big security threat to your computer and you must use an anti-spyware – paid or freeware to not let it affect your PC security. One popular spyware, free of cost for personal use is – LavaSoft Ad-Aware and it can be downloaded from:

http://lavasoft.com/products/ad_aware_free.php

3. Use Firewall

A firewall is a software or hardware device that is meant to stop hackers and intruders from making attacks to the computer/s on the network.

Different servers such as web servers, ftp servers, mail servers and telnet servers use different ports. The firewall only allows genuine users to access these servers by means of some rules in the form of filters and access lists that are configured in the firewall. The same applies for your home computer that connects to the Internet. A firewall makes a database of these access rules (for inside and outside traffic) and alerts you whenever there is any change in these rules. For example, a remote user trying to access your PC by any means will be monitored by the firewall and an alert will be shown along with your permission to allow access.

Most of the big companies use a hardware firewall whereas home users uses software firewalls.

A good software firewall, free of cost is ZoneAlarm Free Firewall that is good for work from home users. The configuration of firewall is not very difficult and mostly the auto configuration is sufficient; only few basic queries are to be answered by clicking at the time of fresh installation and afterwards upon changes.

If you don’t use a firewall, then the security of your PC is definitely compromised. If you are a work from home user, use the ZoneAlarm Free Firewall version available at:

http://www.zonealarm.com/store/content/catalog/products/zonealarm_free_firewall.jsp

4. Keep your Operating System Patched and Updated Regularly

Microsoft OS and applications have inadvertent bugs and security holes that are somehow not known to the developers at the time of programming (flaws in browser, Microsoft Outlook and Office etc.). Later when the users or security experts report these security flaws or they come into notice by other means then solutions to these bugs are developed and licensed users of the OS can download these files and update their operating systems for being more secure than previous state. Other operating systems too have some security flaws but Microsoft has large user base and thus hackers mostly try to find and attack Microsoft OS based systems and thus there are more reports of Microsoft’s OS based computers and servers being cracked.

A patch is a term for a solution to a specific issue whereas an update is a fix for a commonly used software problem. A service pack contains both – updates and patches and undergoes a rigorous testing.

The default configuration for updates (software and security) that should be in your Windows Operating System should be to auto update so that you do not miss any of these critical patches, updates or service packs anytime.

I am sure that with these twelve tips, covered in three posts so far, you will definitely realize the importance of making your computer more secure. If there are any issues with these tips or comments so far, let me know.

Security is such a diverse field that these twelve tips given by me so far are still not enough, so I will cover some more security tips in my next post of this series.

Keep improving your PC security and enjoy working on it without any downtime due to security lapses!

Take care,

Your friend,

Rajesh Mago

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    Tags: Computer secuity tips, free advice on making your computer defense more strong, PC security tips, pointers to making your PC more secure, strong PC security, tips for making your computer secure

    This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 at 12:34 pm and is filed under Security. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

    2 Responses to “The Expert, No Nonsense Tips On Keeping Your PC Secure – III”

    Justin Case May 19th, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Hi, I have enjoyed your posts very much. I got your link from Dan’s blog. I am wondering about the firewall thing. A gentleman here who worked for Microsoft years says Windows firewall is as good as any and Zone Alarm is memory hog. Can you comment on this please.

    Thanks for the great information you have shared.

    Justin

    rajeshmago May 20th, 2010 at 11:00 am

    @ Justin: Thanks for your query. Every company defends their own products by giving some or other reasons. Whatever software I have written in this post are personally used by me and thus are recommended by me. I normally always try to use best one. ZoneAlarm free firewall is from Checkpoint – a reputed company. Whether, it is functionally better or lower than Microsoft inbuilt firewall in their OS’s is a different topic which needs testing. But, the free inbuilt firewall of Microsoft Windows XP is not better than that of free firewall of ZoneAlarm as former doesn’t monitors the outbound connections. MS Vista and later OS’s inbuilt firewall versions can be compared with Checkpoint ZoneAlarm free firewall. I have not tested them and hence I am not in position to compare them right now. BTW – My PC works fine with ZoneAlarm free firewall and I have no memory hog issue with a total of 2GB RAM in my PC. However, I will check both the firewalls and get back to you later. The best would be to use the top free firewall on PC, whatever it is!

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