Protecting Your Home Computer 101

Jul 19, 2011 | Tips & Alerts

 

Protecting Your Home Computer 101

Zombies, Botnets, Hackers, Malware, Drive-by Downloads... you can't surf the Internet these days without hearing about the bad guys. While surfing the web may seem intimidating, there are some simple key steps everyone can take with their home computers to reduce their overall risk.

 

1

Keep Your Operating System Up to Date

Computer operating systems are periodically updated to stay in tune with technology requirements and to fix security holes. Be sure to install the updates to ensure your computer has the latest updates from the manufacturer. Check for new updates weekly and install all critical updates.

2

Install & Update Your Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is designed to prevent malicious software programs from embedding on your computer. If it detects malicious code, like a virus or a worm, it works to disarm or remove it. Viruses can infect computers without the user’s knowledge. Most types of antivirus software can be set up to update and protect automatically. Remember – your antivirus software is only as good as its last update, so make sure it's being updated daily.

3

Keep Your Firewall Turned On

A firewall helps protect your computer from outsiders who might try to gain access to crash it, delete information, or even steal passwords or other sensitive information. Software firewalls are widely recommended for single computers. Firewall software is typically included with most current day operating systems or can be purchased for individual computers.

4

Be Careful What You Download

Carelessly downloading email attachments or software from unscrupulous websites can circumvent even the most vigilant antivirus software. Never open an email attachment from someone you don't know, and be wary of forwarded attachments from people you do – they may have unwittingly advanced malicious code.

5

Use a Standard User Account

Using a standard user account can help protect your computer by preventing users from making changes that affect everyone who uses the computer. For typical everyday web surfing and emailing, the standard user account is more than sufficient. You should only log in to the Administrator account for tasks that require it; such as hardware of software installation or making changes to other user accounts. Set up a standard user account for everyone in your home and implement a strong password on the Administrator account. Help on setting up user accounts at home for a few of the more popular operating systems can be found at the following sites:

Microsoft Windows 7
Microsoft Vista
Microsoft Windows XP
Mac OSX
Linus Unbuntu

6

Turn Off Your Computer

With the growth of the high-speed Internet connections, many of us opt to leave our computers on and ready for action. The downside is that being "always on" renders computers more susceptible. Beyond firewall protection, which is designed to fend off unwanted attackers, turning the computer off effectively severs an attacker's connection – be it spyware or a botnet that employs your computer's resources to reach out to other unwitting users.