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Sunday, June 29, 2008

4 Basic Steps To Protect Your Computer Against Internet Intruders

It never ceases to amaze me how many people connect to the Internet with no protection on the PC at all! This is a very dangerous activity and has led to financial ruin for some people.

I have had family members and friends who ask me to check out their PC's because they are 'slow' or they can't stop these damn popup windows from coming up. These are the first signs of infection or security breaches on your PC.

It takes 4 simple steps and it costs you nothing at all except a bit of time and effort.

Step 1 - Get a firewall installed.

Firewalls help to protect you from Internet attacks and intrusion from hackers on the Internet who go 'sniffing' for unprotected computers.

What do they do when they hack your computer? Well they look for password files, security breaches that allow them to use YOUR computer for malicious attacks on other computers on the Internet.

There was a story not long ago about the Russian Mafia hacking into a household computer and using it to transfer funds from unsuspecting bank accounts for their own illegal purposes. When the Feds tracked down the responsible computer, it belonged to some unsuspecting person who had no idea of what was happening. So be warned!!

Microsoft Windows XP has a built in firewall so you could enable that and it gives you some basic protection.

If you don't want to use that firewall then try a free firewall called zone alarm from http://www.zonelabs.com

Zone alarm is a great firewall and even better for the price - they have a free version for home and non-commercial use.

Step 2 - Get an anti virus product installed

Anti virus software scans your computer for malicious code that can cause all sorts of problems on your computer and even delete files and make your computer inoperable.

You can get a very good free virus scanning software called AVG virus scanner from http://www.grisoft.com/

Step 3 - Get a reliable anti-spyware software

Spyware tends to sit on your computer and 'spy' on what you are doing. It can do things like look at web sites you have visited, record your key strokes (looking for account numbers and passwords) and it can then sends this information back to its originator.

A great and well know spyware scanner is called Spybot-S&D from http://www.safer-networking.org/
The other great spyware utilities are adaware from lavasoft, and Microsoft have one as well.

My advice would be to run two or three spyware utilities, particularly if you do a lot of online transactions with your computer.

Step 4 - Keep your Microsoft (MS) Windows Operating System (OS) updated

Microsoft come out with security patches on a regular bases to close up security 'holes' that have been identified. These patches can be applied manually by you or you can have MS Windows download and install them automatically.

To check out what updates you require -

1. Go to the Microsoft Windows Update page here - http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/

2. Scan your computer to find out what critical updates and security patches are not installed.

3. Select the updates to install paying particular attention to CRITICAL Updates.

You may need to restart your computer after the patches have been applied

As a final word on the 4 steps, it is critical that you keep all of the programs up to date. So check back with the vendors on a regular basis (at least weekly) to see if updates are available. The better programs (like Spybot) will have options in them to check for updates.

The above list of programs is not the ultimate list. Like any programs there are dozens of choices. The ones above are those that I have had first hand experience of.

I personally use commercial programs because I spend so much time connected to the Internet, my family surfs quite regularly and I am a big fan of online transactions. Even the commercial programs only cost pennies compared to what can happen if you do get an infection.