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October 23, 2007

Keeping Your (Windows Based) Computer Secure:

In today’s world you can do just about everything online. You can pay your bills, make banking transaction, you can have entire savings accounts at online banks. You can look and apply for jobs, apply for business licenses, and even order dinner to be delivered.

While all of this is incredibly convenient, it does put a lot of personally information out in the open and can be a risk. And while companies that allow you to manage your account online do everything they can to protect your data, if your home computer gets compromised, then nothing any of the company's does will help. So here are a few tips to keeping your computer nice and safe.

  1. Make sure you have a good anti-virus software installed. There are several to choose from, some , like AVG, are free. Others like Norton Anti-Virus and my favorite Kaspersky can be purchased. No matter which anti-virus you choose, be sure to keep it up to date. Remember that when you are buying an anti-virus, you are really buying a subscription to their updates, so at the end of the year, you need to renew that subscription. An updated anti-virus is key to maintaining a secure computer.
  2. In addition to an anti-virus, a good piece of anti-spyware/adware software is good to have. I recommend using Adaware or Spybot S&D. The difference between a virus and adware/spyware is how it propagates and its purpose. Each require a different method of removal, although
  3. Turn on your firewall. Windows XP and Vista both include a built in firewall, which is good for most home users. You can purchase more advanced ones, but like most things, the more features it has, the more complicated and can be and the easier it is to mis-configure.
  4. Always have a password on your user account. Many people think that because it is their home computer, there is no reason to have a password. But the problem is, if there is no password, people can connect remotely and will immediately have access to do what they please on your computer since there is no username/password for them to figure out.
  5. Always change the default password on everything. If there is no default password, set a password (windows XP has a built in administrator account with no password by default, be sure to set one)
  6. Use strong passwords. A good password will be 8+ characters long, include letters, numbers and special characters like @, #, $, %.
  7. Update your software. No one is perfect, so when software is released there are still lots of bugs and security holes in it. Be sure to download the security updates as they come out. In windows you do this by using “windows update” or “Microsoft update” which can be found under all programs in your start menu.
  8. Be smart about email. Don’t just open attachments from people that you have never heard from, don’t reply to that guy in Nigeria who wants to give you $30m. Ignore those nude photos of whatever pop star is in the new lately. Emails like this are only around to scam you. Don’t fall for it.
  9. Don’t click on those nice flashy banners people have on their website saying you won money or some awesome prize. They are also SPAM. Many of those links will lead you to another page and then download some spyware onto your computer so they can keep popping up advertisements.
  10. Just about everything online, like in life, that seems too good to be true, is. Use your common sense.

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