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2 Minute Tutes - Security

In 2 minutes, you should know:



How to protect against viruses

A computer virus is nothing more than a program, written by a person, that copies itself without permission.  Many viruses are designed to cause problems such as deleting your documents or crashing your operating system.

Your best defence against computer viruses is to run an up-to-date antivirus program & ensure you have an adequate backup.  Even with the best antivirus defence, someone has to get each new virus first, so a good backup is essential.


How to keep your operating system up-to-date

A mistake in a program is called a bug.  If a hacker finds a bug in your operating system, you may be vulnerable until that bug is fixed (sometimes called 'patched').  Microsoft make these updates available as soon as the bug is discovered through their 'Windows Update' service.  These updates are free and can be set to automatically download.

To do this, follow these steps:

  • Click Start
  • Point to All Programs (Windows XP only)
  • Click Windows Update
  • Accept any updates marked as 'Critical'

How to keep your applications system up-to-date

Even with the best antivirus protection & all operating system updates, you could be vulnerable if you use an application with a security loophole.  Most commonly, connected applications such as web browsers & email programs are vulnerable, but you can check with most software companies if they have updates for their programs, usually from their web site or help menu.

Microsoft have a special website called OfficeUpdate where you can keep your Office applications (such as Word, Excel & Outlook) securely up-to-date.  Symantec products, like Norton Antivirus & pcAnywhere, can be easily kept up-to-date by running LiveUpdate.

What a firewall does

When your computer is connected to the Internet, instead of leaving every program with unrestricted access from outside, a firewall blocks all traffic except what you specifically allow.  There are many good firewall programs available including Norton Personal Firewall, McAfee Firewall & ZoneLabs ZoneAlarm.  Windows XP even includes a firewall built in.

How to test your security

You don't have to ask a hacker to attempt to break into your computer - there is a website that does that for you.  Gibson Research has a test called ShieldsUp that automatically attempts to access your data & then gives you a report.  Of course, no system can be guaranteed to be 100% secure, but this test will let you know of areas that may be vulnerable in ten seconds - and it's free.

What is spyware, and how to remove it

Spyware is software that transmits your information to advertisers without your consent.  It is often hidden and sneaks into your system bundled with a free program that you download.  It may display pop up advertisements, change your browser's start page, monitor websites that you visit, collect data that you type and send information back to the spyware company.

Fortunately, removal of spyware is easy, with some of the best spyware removers available free of charge.  Reputable spyware removers include Microsoft Antispyware, Ad-aware, Pest Patrol and SpyBot.  Just be sure to update them before running a scan & beware of scams - there are some programs that claim to remove spyware that ARE spyware!