||The need to be pro-active
been paying attention at all of late, you are hearing more and more
about various viruses, worms, trojans, hacks, and other sundry
problems that are afflicting Internet users. Unfortunately,
these types of activities are just going to get worse and worse as
time goes by, according to most of the experts in this area.
However, there is good news here -- protecting you computer from
these various types of malicious activity is quite simple. All
it takes is installing a few simple programs and keeping them
up-to-date. Combine that with a small dose of good old common
sense, and you should have nothing to worry about!
||Install a good anti-virus program
first piece of protective software you want to install is a good
anti-virus program. You may already have one, as most computers
these days come with some type of anti-virus software
pre-installed. If that's the case, though, it may be out-of-date,
so you need to check the manufacturer's web site for updates, and
install them if necessary. If you don't have any anti-virus
software, there are a lot of good ones available. And oddly
enough, most of the better ones are actually free for personal use.
If you have a commercial package such as Norton or McAfee and are
happy with it, then by all means keep using it. But if you are
having any kinds of issues at all -- many people do -- then you really
should look at one of the free alternatives. AVG
is one of the best anti-virus programs available, and it's free for personal use. That's the one we recommend. avast!
is another good one to look at.
Regardless of what program you choose to use, the most important aspect
of using an anti-virus program is that you absolutely must keep it
up-to-date. This involves periodically updating the virus
definition files that the program uses, as the protection you are
afforded is only as good as how current that definitions file is.
The longer you go between updates, the more viruses are out there
in the wild that your program doesn't know about, and so the more
vulnerable you are. Fortunately all anti-virus programs these
days automatically configure themselves to update on a daily basis, so
there's nothing for you to mess with in order to get these updates to
happen automatically. However, if anything should go wrong with
the update process, it is up to you to figure out what is going wrong
and fix it. This is EXTREMELY
if for any reason the updates are not being done, you might as well not
even bother installing or running the anti-virus software in the first
place! So never ignore any kinds of warnings you might see about
your anti-virus program not updating properly -- that's a problem that
you need to fix quickly!
||Install a good personal firewall program
viruses there are all kinds of other "bad programs" that
can wreak havoc with your computer. Remember that the
"net" in "internet" stands for
"network". When you are connected to the internet, you are
physically attached to a network that comprises literally millions
and millions of different computers and users. And every single one
of them has a physical connection to your computer! You have what
amounts to one long wire running from your computer to every other
computer on the internet. And that's why you need what is called a
"firewall" program. It prevents other people from
accessing your computer via this physical connection. With a
firewall program, you essentially become invisible to them.
Using some type of firewall program is a good idea for everyone who
uses the internet -- but if you are using an "always on"
connection like DSL or cable, you should consider a firewall program
mandatory. Fortunately, there's an excellent personal firewall
program that is free -- ZoneAlarm by ZoneLabs
. It's quite easy to
set up, and once you have it configured it runs invisibly in the
background without you having to do anything at all.
And please note that firewalls and anti-virus programs are two totally
different animals. Don't get them confused -- you need both!
||Protection from malware
if viruses and internet attacks weren't enough to worry about, we are
now seeing huge amounts of "malware" floating around the internet.
This is somewhat of a generic category of software that somehow
gets installed on your computer, and which proceeds to do stuff that
inevitably is going to interfere with your use of the internet.
If you are seeing an inordinate amount of popup windows, more
than likely you have some type of malware. Or another sign is
that you are continually getting re-directed to pages that you did not
request. Or perhaps even worse, there may be a program spying on
your internet browsing patterns, and sending that information out to
another computer without your knowledge.
There are a lot of programs available to protect you from malware, but
quite frankly none of them do all that great a job. And the
reality is that if you follow a couple of very easy "safe browsing"
rules you really don't have to worry about malware at all. The
first rule is just don't use Internet Explorer. Use Firefox
instead -- it's far more secure and far less vulnerable to these types
of attacks. And the second rule is simply never install any
software unless you are 100% sure that it is not malware. If you
see an offer for a free download that will "speed up your internet
connection" or "clean your computer" or some such -- odds are that's a
pitch for a malware program. It's easy enough to verify whether a
given program is legitimate or not -- remember that Google is your
friend. Just do a quick search on the program name and if it is
indeed malware, you'll get a number of search hits indicating such.
If you follow those two simple rules, the odds are you will never have
to worry about malware. However, if you still want more
protection, there are some decent anti-malware programs available.
Microsoft's Windows Defender
is actually a pretty good program and it's a free solution. Or if
you want a commercial program, one of the best available is Webroot's Spy Sweeper
||Open email attachments only when you know they are "safe"
Even with a
good anti-virus program and a good personal firewall, you still need
to be careful -- as the "bad guys" are always dreaming up
new ways to get around the existing software protection. The number
one way that viruses and worms can get in to your system is via
email attachments. So any time you get an email attachment, before
you open it be VERY SURE
that the attachment did indeed come
from the person that is indicated in the email. Remember that many
of these viruses spread themselves by stealing names out of people's
address books -- so just because you recognize the name of the
person sending you the email does NOT NECESSARILY
they did send you the email! Anytime you get an attachment that you
were not expecting, or the attachment looks funny in any way, either
call the person who sent it or email them back and verify that the
attachment is legitimate. Remember that the only way an attachment
can do any damage is if you open it up to look at it. So if there's
ever any doubt at all about the legitimacy of an attachment, just
delete it and you will be safe.