The first line of defense for keeping your computer secure is YOU
, the computer user. And here are some User guidelines that can help:
1 - Don't use torrent or P2P software or do file swapping.
This is by far the number one source of some of the more serious malware (malware - malicious software) infections. So much so that number 2, visiting risky sites/clicking unknown links on sites (surfing), pales in comparison. The only safe way to use torrent software is to not use it.
2 - Surfing and software downloading.
You probably already know, in general, what types of sites are considered unsafe or risky to visit. To help you make decisions on what websites you can trust you can use searchable online lists like McAfee's SiteAdvisor
. For deciding which softwares and downloads to trust you can check them against Bleeping Computer's Uninstall Programs List
. You can also protect your system from being misdirected to undesirable websites by installing Javacool's SpywareBlaster
. Keeping this updated will maintain a current list of bad sites, and automatically block the system from accessing them.
3 - Take the time to learn how to operate your security software correctly.
Most will have a "Help Topics" or an "FAQ" available for you to review. Know how and when to update it, and how to maintain the best security settings for the types of computer use you do. If you have a difficult time understanding how to use your security software, perhaps it is not the right one for you. Improper use or settings could leave your system as vulnerable as if you did not have the software installed.
4 - Keep all software updated.
Especially those most often misused by malware vendors, such as Windows Updates
, Sun's Java
and Adobe's Reader
and Adobe's Flash Player
. A simple method of updating Java would be to access Java through your Control Panel, then clicking it's own Update option. Be sure to also uninstall any older Java versions after updating through Add/Remove Programs. You can also use F-Secure's Health Check
, which will provide you with a current system review of all vulnerable software updates.
5 - Change passwords/use secure passwords.
Human nature leads many users to rely on very simple passwords, such as a name or simple number sequence, to simplify remembering each of them. And infrequently, if ever, change them. Malware vendors rely on this factor when they create password theft softwares. They know exactly where on systems passwords are stored, and also know the more common methods of "guessing" the simpler ones used. To ensure your passwords are secure, change them at least once every 30 - 60 days (preferably 30), and choose complex passwords, that include both upper and lower case characters and numbers. PC Tools offers a simple Secure Password Generator
that can be set to user's preferences to generate the more complex passwords. You can store these in text files on your computer, in folders with names that only you would recognize. There are more secure password saving measures, including softwares to use for that, but as few users would actually use those consistently just be sure to use more complex passwords, and change them regularly. Especially device passwords, such as any routers that are in use.
6 - Have the right security software installed.
A - AntiVirus software.
All computers should have a good antivirus software installed and in use. Both Avast
and Avira AntiVir
still offer free versions of their fairly popular antivirus softwares (NOTE - 6/11 I have learned that AntiVir is now attempting to install the adware/spyware Ask Toolbar on customer systems. If this does not change, in the next few weeks they will be dropped from this review). Be sure to only have one of these installed at any one time though - more than that and they will conflict with each other and actually reduce your system's security.
B - Firewall protection.
Windows has included it's own firewall since XP SP2, and offers one with Vista as well (see here
). The older version of the free Sygate
firewall is still available for downloading and use. And Tall Emu
offers a free version of their Online Armor
C - Anti-spyware/anti-malware software. Windows Defender
is free, and provides adequate protection. Malwarebytes
, a newer anti-malware software, has proven to be very effective, as well as the popular free SuperAntiSpyware
Another security measure, which will also help keep your computer running well, is to keep temp storage cleaned out. Each picture, flash display, page bar and text block you see on each web page you visit is downloaded to your browser's temporary storage folders (such as Internet Explorer's Temporary Internet Files folder). Malware often uses these to then install infection on systems, as well as recreate infection already removed. CCleaner
is one software that is used to clean out those stored files. However, unless you truly know what changes made with CCleaner might do, I recommend only using it's preset options when doing any cleaning. Another small but safer free program that can be used is Atribune's ATF Cleaner
, which is the cleaner of choice on many of the malware removal forums.
Take the time, think safe and be safe. And smile - it's always a beautiful day.