Security should be a layered solution
Stopping a virus before it attacks your computer or network can save you money and down-time. Althought these are all good measures to help keep you safe, the only way to stay completely safe is to not own a computer. Even having no internet connection to your computer doesn’t keep you safe. There have been several reports of legit software companies accidently including viruses on their install CDs. The more security layers you have in place the better protected you are. The trick is to keep a balance between ease of use and protection. If you have so much security in place that using your computer becomes a huge hastle to use, it is time to change something. If possible put security in place that isn’t very noticeable, yet has multiple layers.
1) Antivirus & malware software protection
Make sure you have some type of software installed that actively checks for malicious files on your computer and that it is always up-to-date with the latest download. If you open your antivirus program it should tell you if there are any type of alerts you need to look at. Also consider some of the paid antivirus protection instead of the free versions as they may have extra benefits that can really make a big difference. An example of this would be Sophos. When you are browsing the internet and come across a hacked or compromised web site that may try and steal your information or put a virus onto your computer, Sophos can simply block the entire web site to help protect you. They also have many other layers of protection built into their software that other companies don’t provide. A couple free, basic antivirus software to consider would be Avira and Microsoft Security Essentials.
2) Keep Windows up-to-date
Microsoft is continually releasing security updates for Windows as vulnerabilities are discovered. Make sure your computer is set to download and install these updates automatically. Hackers are always trying to write malicious software to take advantage of these vulnerabilities. Did you know that your copy of Windows XP may no longer be supported by Microsoft and as such not able to download the latest security updates? This is true for any copy of Windows XP not running the latest Service Pack 3 update. Windows 7 has several big improvements to give you more protection right out of the box.
3) Google public DNS
When you type in www.google.com your internet browser is checking with a DNS server which translates the domain name to the IP address of the google server. Every web site on the internet has an IP address. Domain names just make it easier for us to remember. By default your using your internet providers DNS servers. Google, OpenDNS and NortonDNS all provide the option of using their DNS servers. While each of those mentioned is a little different, the main reason for using their DNS servers is to help keep you safe from malicious web sites that have been detected, by blocking them. Your internet providers default DNS servers do not have this added protection. More details can be read on Google’s DNS web site. The best way to set this up is to set your router to use their DNS. This makes the change transparent to anyone using it, no software to install and everyone on the network takes advantage of it.
4) Use a restricted user account
In Windows you can log in using an account that has unrestricted access to everything on your computer or an account with limited access and unable to make certain setting changes. If your computer gets a virus and you are using an unrestricted user account the virus is able to have unrestricted access as well. In comparison using a restricted account will help limit what the virus can do. If you need the higher level of access you can run a program or setting as an unrestricted user giving only that program the access it needs.
5) Surf smart
Some of the best advise I can give is to learn to surf smart on the internet. Always be cautious on the internet and downloading anything you are not sure is safe or know where it came from. Viruses can be hiding in pictures, programs (a lot of free programs too) or links on a web page that take you to a different web page than it says it will. A free poker program may give you more than you gambled on. If you learn to be cautious and check sources first this can be the biggest way to keeping your computer safe.