I just received a chain email alerting me to a virus that came out over a year ago, so I wrote up a “usefull” chain email and sent it out as a reply. Here it is for archival purposes. I look forward to anybody’s comments, additions or arguments:
(Written July 2008 – If recieved as a chain letter, stop passing on beyond 2009!)
BASIC RECOMMENDATIONS FOR COMPUTER SECURITY:
Prevent Viruses, Spyware, Malware and Hackers from getting into your system:
by Jason ‘Jaypoc’ Bauman
Keep your PC up to date
Always update your PC. Most operating systems can be set up to download and install updated automatically. Once a bug in an operating system or peice of software is identified and a patch is released, it only takes malicious programmers a day or two to develop and implement a virus or worm that can take advantage of that bug. Keeping your PC patched constantly will ensure that your protected from such attacks.
Surf Safe Sites
Stick to web-sites that are well known, or run by legitimate organizations. Stay away from adult sites and sites that offer pirated software, music and movies (This includes using Peer to Peer or illegal bit-torrent sites). Often these sites are riddled with malware and spyware.
Don’t click links in email.
Spammers/Malware developers can make an address appear legitimate in an email, but clicking on the link can sometimes send you to a totally different web site. It’s always a good idea to confirm the address by checking the status bar at the bottom of the screen, or copying and pasting what you see into the address bar. If you recieve an e-card, don’t click the included link, but go directly to the site and then type in the confirmation code given in the email. Also, don’t respond to or click links in emails from people you don’t know or don’t trust.
Use a Firewall
If you’re at home, put a router (wireless or wired) between you and your internet connection. If you’re using a public hot-spot, turn on your PC’s software firewall. If you are unsure how to do so, contact your computer vendor (or send me an email. I’ll help if I can).
When in Public, pretend you have no privacy
If you use public Hot-Spots to connect to the Internet, you should keep in mind that nothing you do is private. Don’t enter any information that you wouldn’t want the person sitting next to you seeing. Unless you are using a secure website (https://) then any information send to/from your computer to the Internet could be seen by someone using special (and freely available) software on another computer nearby. When logging into sites, make sure the site offers a secure login page before typing in a name and password.
Use Strong Passwords
Easy passwords are easy to guess, or break using freely available software. Malicious hackers use “dictionaries” to guess thousands of passwords a second, and if your password is a dictionary word, or close to, it is likely to be one of the passwords that are guessed. Combine Capital and Lowercase letters as well as numbers and if allowed, symbols.A good practice is to use a phrase, make an acronym of it, and replace some of the letters with numbers or symbols. You’d be surprised how easy it is to remember very complex passwords this way.
Install an anti-virus program and make sure you keep it up to date. Most good antivirus programs will release updates on a daily basis. Be sure to keep your anti-virus solution up to date as a backup to catch anything that got past you. You may also want to install an Anti Mal-ware program (i.e. Spy Sweeper, Ad-Aware, Spybot). These are okay, but you generally don’t want to install more than one Anti-Virus program (same goes for firewalls). Most commercial anti-virus programs protect you from spyware nowadasy as well, so using a separate program is often not necessary.
If you took the time to read this, then you should have a pretty good idea of how to keep your PC safe and clean. Using a little common sense while online and keeping an eye out for “trouble” will greatly reduce your risk of Virus/Malware infections, and possibly even eliminate the chances completely.
If you’d like a GREAT (and entertaining) resource for keeping your computer safe, I recommend a podcast (downloadable radio program) called “The Tech Guy” podcast. Hosted by Leo Laporte, a long time technologist. The show covers everything from Home Entertainment, HDTV, Radio, Phones, Computers, Security, etc… If you want an entertaining look into “geekdom” Leo is great and he breaks things down for the less tech-saavy.
The podcast can be downloaded for multiple MP3 players at – http://twit.tv/ttg
It is also available via iTunes and the Zune Marketplace
The Tech Guy can also be heard on XM Satelite Radio and multiple local radio stations. Check your local listings.