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General computer security

August 6, 2008
  • Install the latest Antivirus Software on all your computers and never disable them. Popular antivirus softwares include Kaspersky, Bit Defender, Nod32, Antivir, Grisoft AVG and Quickheal. Also install a personal firewall and an anti-spyware solution. Popular firewalls include Antivir, Grisoft AVG, Quickheal, 3Com and Sonicwall.

  • Update antivirus/ anti-spyware/ firewall at least every 15 days. Carry out a complete system scan with your anti-virus at least once a week, or better, auto-schedule it to run every Friday.

  • There are a few free online antivirus scanners available at Trend-Micro, Kaspersky and F-Secure.

  • Don't download or open attachments from unknown senders. Even if the sender is trusted, ensure that the content is relevant. Even non-executable files like *.doc files can contain macro viruses and Trojans. There are some dangerous programmes called worms, which don't need human interaction. You can be infected by simply opening an e-mail or by visiting a Web site and that's it. So always stay alert. Avoid opening e-mail attachments that contain .vbs, .scr, .exe, or .pif file extensions. Files that end in these extensions are most likely to contain some sort of viruses.

  • Latest Web browsers such as Firefox, IE 7 & Opera offer innovative new security features, so it is necessary to update old browsers to their latest versions.

  • Never download any files especially executable files over P2P sharing networks (peer-to-peer), as you can never be absolutely certain as to what they really are. P2P file sharing programmes can lead to the installation of a lot of adware and spyware. Try downloading executables from authentic and well-known Web sites; don't download files from any random Web site.

  • Try not to visit warez, porn sites or Web sites that provide cracks and serials because most of them have a lot of spyware, trojans and viruses. A single visit and you are most likely infected with hundreds of malicious programmes.

  • Be familiar with the programmes installed on your computer. If you notice that a new programme is installed without your permission, possibilities are that it might be something malicious.

  • Read the installation agreements carefully when you download something from the Internet. Pay attention to the terms and conditions or EULA (end-user license agreements) of the programme being installed. Reference to third party installation should be given more attention. Some EULA's tell you that, if you install the programme, you have to also agree to install some spyware with the software. Check the independent sources, because some EULA's do not mention about the spyware.

  • Back-up your computer on a regular basis, at least weekly. Copy your important documents and files onto a USB drive, CD or a DVD for safekeeping. Don't wait for the disaster to happen, take the precautions beforehand. Create system restore points periodically.

  • Never respond to unsolicited e-mail. To those who send spam, one response or 'hit' from thousands of e-mails is enough to justify the practice. Additionally, it validates your email address as active, which makes it more valuable, and therefore opens the door to more spam.

  • Beware of phishing attacks. Sites like AntiPhishing offer latest updates on phishing along with some good security tips.

  • Don't chat with strangers or accept any file, especially executables from an unknown person on chat. Don't click on any links given by someone you don't know.

  • Do not accept links or downloads from strangers even if it is tempting. There have been cases where spyware like trojans and key-loggers have been hidden in simple picture files with .jpg extensions. You never really know what is contained inside a file which looks attractive.

  • Be cautious while displaying your profile, especially your personal details, photographs, videos and contacts on social networking sites. Your profiles and contacts may be misused by other people.

  • Install parental-control or filtering softwares like those from Websense (LINK) that helps you choose what can be seen on the Internet and monitor the activities of any users.

    Also see: Online frauds: How 'phishers' dupe you
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