Friday, December 15, 2006

Computer Security Tips

First, I'm going to say I'm no computer security expert, so if my advice doesn't provide 100% protection to your computer, all I can say is sorry. Better luck next time.

Anyway, I have been asked on several occasions about making a computer more secure. This is mainly for Windows machines, so I figured I'd do a quick post with a quick listing of the steps I've taken to make my computer more secure.

  1. Switch to Firefox or another browser. I use Firefox. Besides being a better web browser, IMHO, I feel it's less likely to allow an attacker to completely infiltrate your computer since it doesn't use ActiveX nor is it tied into your operating system. If you do get it, I recommend the following addons: Adblock Plus or Adblock, NoScript, and Permit Cookies. These extensions will not only prevent some of the annoyances of web browsing affect you, but you have control over what sites are allowed to execute Javascript and/or set cookies on your machine.

  2. Use a firewall. Currently, since I have a Nforce4 Ultra motherboard, I'm using their onboard firewall, but I've had luck with ZoneAlarm as well. I also have a router with a firewall on it, so the personal firewall is mainly to restrict what apps can hit the Internet. Still, very useful to keep unknown apps from phoning home.

  3. Spyware removal software. I use Spybot S&D and AdAware. I recommend using at least two as they catch different things. I typically run these once a week. You can run them at the same time and they still finish in a reasonable amount of time.

  4. Antivirus. I'm currently using ClamWin, which is a Windows GUI version of ClamAV. I've also used AVG by Grisoft and Norton Antivirus. Can't really tell you if they work or not since it looks like I've never gotten a virus on any of my computers in the past...10+ years? I run this once a week as well. Best to do it overnight, especially since ClamWin is slow. I think it's also a bit more thorough, but I'm not 100% sure.

  5. Use Thunderbird or another email client. I use Thunderbird and I know for a fact it stopped a virus because one was sent, but I couldn't tell it was a virus so I sent it to work to have someone look at it. Needless to say, it was picked up by the company's antivirus software. Anyway, as far as I know, all alternatives to Outlook are not vulnerable to any of the attacks against Outlook. Also, I find the spam blocking in Thunderbird to work very well.

I also avoid using Windows Media player whenever possible and I don't use MS Office at home, but that's because I don't like WMP or MS Office, but I do like free alternatives better. Foobar2000 is a very nice music player and OpenOffice.org works quite well for me.

If this helps, great! If not, let me know.

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