This page gives details about the requirements for a personal firewall, virus protection, and important system policies to follow to achieve essential security. Any computer without these preventative tools should not connect to the internet.
Every computer that connects to the internet in any form MUST have a personal firewall or be behind a corporate firewall. The type of connection is not important. A personal firewall is required for dial in connections, cable modem, DSL, ISDN, T1 and others. The ONLY exception is when there is some type of firewall already existing between the computer and the internet. Get a personal firewall and configure it according to the maker’s instructions.If you go to the store to purchase a personal firewall and one of the clerks or salespeople tell you that you do not need one (as they have done with some of my friends), I recommend one or more of the following.
- Ask the person for some credentials showing some expertise in computer security. Possibly a Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) card.
- Ask the person’s boss why they are giving erroneous and dangerous advice which will not only cause the loss of a sale but could eventually result in damage to a customer’s computer.
- Ask for the advice in writing and see if they are willing to pay the bill to re-format your hard drive, re-install your operating system, and re-install your applications after your computer is compromised and your system is ruined.
Read about how firewalls work at the Firewalls page. Check the firewall products section to see a variety of firewall products. Read the reviews on these products where they are available. Don’t forget to keep your firewall updated with the latest updates from the manufacturer. Firewalls can have flaws also so you should check the manufacturers website for updates to your product or get on their newslist so you are notified when updates are released.
Every computer must have virus protection.
- If you do not have an anti-virus product, purchase one. Check the anti-virus products section to see a variety of anti-virus products. Read the reviews on these products where they are available.
- Update the virus list database in your anti-virus product at least once per day. Most products have an automatic update feature which allows you to set when it will check for updates and do them automatically. The updates should be done often since not all products can filter against unrecognized viruses. Delaying the update time for your anti-virus product virus library will increase the chance of your system getting an unrecognized virus.
- A full virus scan should be done at least once per week.
If you do not at least take the two measures listed above then you should not connect your computer to the internet. Not following these basic requirements is a perfect formula for getting trojans, viruses, worms, and backdoors which can ruin your system causing you to need to reformat your hard drive and re-install your operating system.
Security experts talk about layered security. Briefly, this means that given every possible type of threat to your computer, there are at least two mechanisms that may mitigate (prevent) the threat from happening successfully. This is because one prevention mechanism may fail completely or fail to prevent a specific type of threat. For example, in the case of virus prevention your antivirus program is designed to prevent viruses, but perhaps there is a new virus program out that your anti-virus program does not recognize as a virus. If it fails to stop the virus, how will you keep the virus from infecting your computer? This is why the rest of these security measures are important. In this case educating yourself may help.
- Configure your system for protection
- Configure your system to show file extensions all the time. Read How to Configure your Windows System to Show File Extensions All the Time for details.
- Configure your browser to be more secure or use a browser other then Internet Explorer. Read Making Internet Explorer More Secure for details and instructions.
- Perform system updates often. Read Updating Windows Systems to find methods used to do this. Make sure you also update your programs that you use including your browser and Microsoft Office.
- Educate yourself to be more savvy about how your system can be compromised.
- Learn about how viruses spread in the page called How Viruses Spread.
- Learn about internet hoaxes at the page called Internet Fraud and Hoaxes.
- Learn the basics about how your computer works at the Computer Technology Documentation Project’s Basic Computer Section.
- Learn when information is sent in plain text on the internet. Learn what HTTP vs HTTPS means in this page about Passwords.
- Learn why certain inconvenient password policies are necessary at the Passwords page.
- Learn how to choose strong passwords by reading the article called Choosing Passwords.
- Opening e-mails. Only open e-mail attachments when you are sure the sender is really who it appears to be. See the page called Email Practices to Prevent Viruses and Spam.
- Operate at least one anti-spyware/anti-adware product. Learn How Anti-spyware Products Work.
- Be careful about potentially malicious hyperlinks. Malicious hyperlinks are web links that look like they will take you to a particular site such as ebay.com but in they will actually take you to another site. Manually type the address of the site you want to go to rather than clicking on the link in an e-mail.
A couple of additional practices related to your computer which may be lifesavers are:
Back up your data – This should be done regularly to one or more of another computer, a writeable CD ROM drive, a zip drive, or tape drive. Remember if you should lose your data, everything you have done since your last backup will be lost. If you should find it necessary to re-install your system in the event of a security breach you will be glad you have done this. Also I have seen several hard drives fail and cause complete loss of data to users.
Create an emergency boot floppy for your operating system – You should learn how to do this for the operating system you are using. Instructions in this area can be found on the page called How to Create an Emergency Boot Disk for Windows.