OK with the stories out there of all kinds of computer security problems I am once again writing some posts on security. This one will be pretty basic, a guide for dummies.
So why do we need security on our computers? First because there are people out there who want to steal your money, your identity or just use your computer for their criminal gain. If you work for a company on your computer they may be after the information your employer owns. (If you have a security problem at your work call your IT department right away, don’t wait or be afraid, just call.)
How do you protect yourself? By doing a few simple things, keeping your computer up to date, by using security software and by not doing anything stupid. (Sorry if the stupid word offends anyone, it’s just people do stupid things.)
If you are reading this as a guide for dummies you probably run Windows or a Mac. Not that Windows or Mac are dumb but if you are using Linux you probably know enough not to need this but read along anyway. If you are using a Mac you still need to be careful but you don’t have to worry as much as your Windows using friends but read on anyway, there is some you will learn (like don’t be stupid) and you can lord it over your Windows shackled compatriots. On your windows system there is this thing called automatic updates. You need to have this turned on and let your computer update when it wants to, this is the basis of your security. An up to date Windows is more secure than a copy of windows with no updates. To have updates work, if you are using Windows 7, it’s probably on, but check the security center anyway and turn it on if it’s not. If you can’t find the security center get a freind to help you.
If you have Windows XP, first make sure updates are turned on, (Start menu, Control Panel, Security Center) and then get someone to help you see if you can upgrade to Windows 7 and if you can upgrade, pay the money! Windows 7 is better for security than Windows XP. XP is 10 years old, and just not up to it. If your computer at work is still XP, bug your boss, IT etc. and get them to start upgrading.
At home make sure your firewall is turned on. Again in the security center, firewall, click the on radio button. This stops people just accessing your computer as if it was theirs. A firewall is your computer’s personal bouncer making sure the door is covered, be sure you are safe have it turned on.
Next you need to have a virus checker. You have Windows, you need a virus checker. The good news, there are a lot of good free ones, I recommend AVG myself but if you have any problems with using software from a company you don’t know then use Microsoft Security Essentials at least. And let the antivirus update when it needs to as well. Why do you need an anti virus? Well unless you use Windows you probably don’t. Many people who use Macs and Linux don’t use antivirus software. The main reasons for this is that a lot of the things that viruses use to infect and control a Windows computer are there because Microsoft put them there as features. And they won’t fix them. So instead of blocking viruses by plugging the holes Windows users have to use antivirus software with virus signatures to identify and stop viruses.
Next make sure you have the latest version of your web browser. If you have Windows and use IE (poor people who still use IE) then it will be updated already by Windows Update, but it’s a second rate browser now so you might want to install something else. If you already have Firefox then every once in a while it will ask you to restart with the new version. If not check the version by using the about dialog on the help menu. At the moment the newest version is 4.0.1 and the about box should tell you it’s up to date. Other people use Google Chrome, again the about dialog will tell you if you need to update. Either Chrome or Firefox is an improvement over IE (Sorry Microsoft but it’s true.)
Now the next thing is you the user have to learn not to let people put malware on your computer. You have to learn that the web is not a nice place and there are people out there who want to use you. Do not just believe people when they ask you to click a link or download some piece of malware. If you are on Facebook and you get a link from one of your friends try to think about if they ever send you such things, or do they never send you anything. Ask them if they sent you the link before clicking.
If someone you don’t know calls you and says they are from Microsoft or the Windows Technical Support, they are not. Someone is trying to scam you, hang up and call your local police. Microsoft does not call users to help them with their computers and will never ask you to let them remotely access your computer. Only trust people you know to touch your computer.
If you are walking down the street, at your local mall, at your fav’ coffee shop and find a USB key on the ground, don’t pick it up and take it home to see what is on it (or to work.) This is a common way to get malware into a secure network and has been employed successfully in many cases. Don’t fall for this too good to be true trick.
I don’t need to tell you that sites like pOrn sites are a major source of viruses and malware do I? And if you are trying to look at a video or listen to music and other video or music play fine but this one video or song says you need a new piece of software to listen to it, it’s a SCAM don’t download the “codec” as it will just infect you with a virus. And if suddenly your computer starts popping up windows claiming to be a virus and the virus checker is not the one you know you installed and it wants money to get rid of the messages or “clean” the virus, don’t pay, get help from a friend or the local computer store or IT at work.
If you have a virus or other malware on your computer get help. Don’t be afraid or ashamed, the friends you have that can fix your computer don’t think less of you unless you don’t ask for help. Really, we just want to help.
For you Linux users, maybe I’ll write something up for you as well. Just because you run Linux doesn’t mean there aren’t things you really should be doing. Be safe out there.