After almost 20 years of using computers I have come to appreciate the importance of computer security. That irritating obligation you may feel to run an anti virus check on your system once a day just to feel more secure. The wish to eliminate those nagging spam emails permanently from your Inbox. And more recently those unsolicited requests to update your online banking information also known as phishing.
If you are like most people and want to avoid the loss of important information on your computer or laptop, I suggest your implement the following suggestions asap:
- Respect Your Personal Privacy: Most people register for websites left right and centre. This is encouraged by people who invite all their friends to join the latest social networking websites. And with the proliferation of niche social networking websites this trend is set to continue. However, personal privacy is being ruined by simple behaviour like forwarding jokes or chain letters. Start to protect your email address and other personal information. If you’re just exploring a new website, register a free email address, and use that one to avoid receiving spam at some later date. When you send out emails to more than one person consider using BCC.
- Install a Personal Firewall – One of the things I did for the first 8 years of my professional career is to install and maintain network firewalls. Personal firewalls are smaller versions of this same concept that protect your persoal computer or laptop. The purpose of the firewall is to prevent unsolicited attempts to hack your information. Cellphones do not have such a facilite just yet but will require one in the near future, especially those smartphones. As broadband explodes in South Africa, more and more people simply leave their computers permantely connected to the Internet. The risk of an attact on your computer is compounded so remember to switch it off. Even if you information is NOT valuable, your computer can potentially used as a gateway to cause problems for other people. And that will eventually come back to you causing more unecessary headaches. There are many pieces of remote scanning software and remote management software which allows you to take over a desktop seamlessly. I recommend ZoneAlarm or Sygate.
- Anti-Virus: This is actually the most basic compontent of computer security because computer viruses have been around since the earliest days of the Internet. Once again Microsoft products are the main culprits period. So protect yourself using one of the following recommended free anti virus programs: PC Tools, ClamWin or AVG. It is important your anti-virus also checks your emails before sending and before receiving because today, this is the #1 method by which they spread.
- Anti-Spyware: Spyware is similar to computer viruses but different. The prolifiration of spyware can directly be correlated to the rise of interactive websites, and to some extent ecommerce websites. These website primarly use files like cookies to track user behaviour across the Web. Besides being a invasion of personal privacy, sometimes small little applications are installed, with your permission, to give you certain functionality. I strongly advocate you turn your web browser settings to the highest privacy settings and it will go some way to reducing this problem. On the other hand you must run a weekly scan for spyware using one of the following software applications: Ad-Aware, Windows Defender,
- Operating Systems updates: This is probably the most irritating part of maintaining good computer security. If you are running WindowsXP or Windows Vista you are downloading updates constantly. This not only uses bandwidth but over time adds so many layers on top of your existing installation that it reduces the time to boot your computer. Even if you are running Mac OS X or Ubuntu Linux, my favourite alternatives to Microsoft Windows, they both require weekly or at least monthly updates from the Internet. These updates fix security loopholes often discovered by white hat hackers or by ordinary users. Remember that software applications often update themselves on a regular basis as well and programs like Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Office can be your archihilles heel, so consider moving to Open Office.