The internet is a dangerous place. Every computer on the internet has the potential to connect, or communicate, with every other computer on the internet.
If your computer becomes infected with a Virus, Trojan or Worm your PC could be used to send spam, launch attacks or commit other crimes. Your keystrokes can even be monitored remotely, thereby sending your user names and passwords to a criminal. If you do internet banking or hold sensitive data on your computer you should be alarmed.
There is no such thing as 100% safe on the internet. New security breaches are found every day. Today’s Operating Systems and software are so complex that total security is impossible.
Check some of your vulnerabilities at:
Click on the ‘Shields Up’ link.
Then click ‘Proceed’.
Then click on ‘All service ports’.
This will tell you how well your firewall, assuming you have one, is doing for incoming traffic.
Now that you are scared….
You can minimize your risk of infection by applying the following recommendations. The more you follow, the safer you will be.
1. Keep up with your Operating Systems patches. With a Microsoft OS, just ensure that Automatic Updates is turned on.
2. At the very least use a software firewall. Zone Alarm offers a free software firewall or you can purchase their more comprehensive version. If you can’t stand the alerts generated by a product such as Zone Alarm, turn on the Windows firewall. Make sure any ‘exceptions’ under the exceptions tag, were put there by you. Better yet, purchase a hardware based firewall. If you are on a budget, you can get a home based router/firewall for $50.
3. Use virus software. Make sure you keep it enabled and the virus definitions up to date. Too often I see computers riddled with viruses and see that they have disabled their virus software. AVG has both free and commercial virus software.
4. Do not use peer to peer networks. (BearShare, Kazaa, Napster, BitTorrents) Everyone loves swag. But guess what, most of the stuff you find there is riddled with viruses and trojans. Not to mention that most file sharing is illegal. Peer to Peer technology connects your PC to multiple unknown sources. Any one of those sources, now knows your IP address, knows you are there, and can launch an attack.
5. Download (pay for) and use software only by trusted sources. If you download drivers, virus software, bible software, key generators, etc from a smaller unknown source it may be loaded with a virus, worm or trojan. The most likely platform is key generators. Hackers write key generators then infect it with a virus. They know that greed and stupidity will overrule honesty and caution in most cases. You are going to get more than a free license key code for your favorite software. In one instance, I downloaded some bible freeware which also acted as an attack platform. In another instance I removed dozens of viruses off a friends computer on Friday. During the weekend he installed a no-name firewall program from a suspicious source. It was infected. He brought it back on Monday riddled with trojans and viruses.
6. Know what your kids are doing on the computer at ALL times. We were all young and stupid. Even if your kid is a prince or princess, you still need to ensure that they do not download and install programs, visit porn or hacking sites (a great way to get a computer virus).
7. Augment your virus software with Adaware (free version available). It picks up the things virus software might miss.
8. Make sure your log in user name for your Operating System (OS) has a corresponding password. No blank passwords. It is just one more locked door for someone to get through. Use strong passwords. Not your dogs name, Fluffy.
9. Turn off ‘remote assistance’ and ‘remote desktop’ on your PC.
10. For small businesses, NEVER put client information on an internet PC. We ordered books online from a small mom and pop internet books store. Within the week someone ordered books with our credit card from Thailand.
11. Use a CD or DVD bootable OS to surf the net like Knoppix. This is not the solution for everyone, but it is one of the safest ways to surf the internet.
12. Turn file shares off. One more door to close.
This is not an exhaustive list, but they are some of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent an intrusion. Remember, you can never prevent an attack.