Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Computer Security - Four Rules You Need to Know

Computer security is on a lot of people's minds. And there are lots of companies out there offering all sorts of ways to stay hack proof. Most high-end products are geared toward large enterprises. This makes sense since they are worth millions or billions of dollars. Security companies go where the money leads. But what about the typical home computer user? How can novice users traverse this brave new world? Let's take a look at my four rules for home computer security.
Let's face it, the internet can be like the wild west. You never know what you're going to find and it's hard to trust anyone. But a little caution can go a long way. The first rule to keep in mind is the rule of the low hanging fruit. What's fruit have to do with computer security? Well, actually it has a lot to do with computer security. People tend to go after the path of least resistance. If you were to pick fruit off a tree, which fruit would you go after? Would you go after the fruit at the top of the tree or would you go after the one hanging in your face? Of course, you would go after the low hanging fruit. Hackers are no different. They will tend to exploit the targets that promise the biggest bang for the least effort. If you require more effort to hack, most hackers will pass you by.
The second rule is the rule of the front door. You never, ever want to hook your computer directly up to the internet. A caveat to this rule is if you know what you're doing and set up a firewall directly on that computer. There are other considerations, but I'm going after straight-forward solutions for you. What I mean is that you never want to hook a DSL or cable modem directly into your computer. You always want to put some type of router between the modem and your computer. This can be a simple dsl/cable router from someone like Linksys. This helps to segment a private network from the public internet network. Let me use an analogy. If you hook up your computer directly to your modem, it's like opening your front door and letting anyone into your house. There is no barrier between you and the outside world. However, if you put a router between the modem and your computer, it's like closing that door on the front of your house. Now, only certain, trusted people are allowed in.
The third rule is the rule of pest control. Please don't run a computer without virus protection. You can have the best front door in the world, but if you let the back door open it's useless. Anti virus programs help control loopholes in trusted communication lines. A friend of mine got a floppy from a friend. He then quickly copied a presentation for a corporate client on it. He went to the client, inserted the floppy, and was greeted by an obnoxious virus alert. The client was furious, my friend was highly embarrassed, but the software did its job. Never run a computer without virus protection. And these days, you need spyware protection. There are some great free ones out there like Spybot Search and Destroy. I also like SpywareGuide's Xscan for interval scanning.
The fourth rule is the rule of sewing. Ok, I'm not talking about sewing in the traditional sense. I'm talking about putting patches on - on your operating system that is. If you are using Windows, you need to make sure windows update is set to automatically download updates. Security patches regularly come out and you would be less than wise to ignore them. And be warned, in this day and age, some security issues involve simply visiting malicious websites to breech your security. Don't be a victim, be prepared.
While this certainly won't fend off the most hardened hacker, it will keep most at bay. It's sort of like home security. Is a thief going to target the home with lax security or the one with great security? I'll leave that answer to you.
Copyright 2006 Jack Knows Inc.
Paul McGillivary has been a technologist for 15 years. In that time, Paul has experienced thousands of technology problems, challenges, and products. He brings this experience to bear in the articles that he presents.
Visit Paul's tech blog for more great information on Computer Security [].

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