A Beginner’s Guide to Internet Security
This page is a very basic guide from a blog entry I made some years ago. The basic tenets are the same, and are a quick guide for those new to the internet or computing in general. Long-term PC users may find some benefit here too.
I know a lot of people don’t patch software or their OS, but I say that I’d rather do that than spend the time sorting out problems later. This is especially true on home networks where it’s a good idea to actually manually check for updates on Windows Update. Of course, in corporate environments it’s a good idea to test them first. For instance, MS networked machines broadcast themselves using File & Print sharing. This was enabled as default in XP, and Vista and Windows 7 were the same. Why aren’t novice users given better information about PC security?
I use the term PC, but it is easily applied to laptops, Netbooks, AppleMacs, PDAs, BlackBerries and ‘net enabled phones! Considering the integration of mobile phones, Blackberries, and the like, it is quickly becoming obvious that cyber crime is overtaking the drugs problem. Here’s a quick question: Would you use the coffee shop’s wireless hotspot through the connection in your phone to check your bank details online? If you said yes to that question, you’ve been very careless. NEVER use public wi-fi spots for anything confidential – you never know who’s listening.
Here’s my tips for EVERYONE using a computer. I’m not going to recommend any software or the like (but will give examples), and what to look for.
- Get an Anti-virus package such as Mcafee/Norton, or AVG and update it DAILY or more often.
- Patch and protect – check the Windows update site regularly and apply service packs when they are issued.
- Stop spyware – just because your Anti-virus software is up to date, it may not stop certain programs called spyware infecting your machine. These are like viruses, but can capture your browsing history, key strokes, hijack your home page, etc. Use AdAware, Spybot or even Windows Defender.
- Use a firewall. XP has it’s own firewall, but if you have a router use that as well. If you’re using old-fashioned phone dial-up DEFINITELY make sure that you have a firewall, such as Mcafee/Norton/ZoneAlarm, or AVG.
- Wireless cards – switch off the wireless connection when not in use – it also drains the battery quickly on portable computers.
- Router wireless security. Who’s using your network? If you have a wireless router, restrict it to your own wireless MAC addresses and use some form of encryption. Physical connections will be fairly obvious – a network cable will plug into the PC.
- Apple hardware is NOT secure. It’s a myth. AppleMacs and Powerbooks etc., can still suffer the same security problems as PCs, but they are a less ’sexy’ target. Patch, virus protect, firewall, and spyware protect as you would a PC.
- Never save passwords for financial or sites of a confidential nature – especially on public or shared PCs!
- Laptops, USB flash drives and PDAs etc. - are all attractive to thieves. Never store anything confidential on them (as recent media events show!). In other words, never leave them in a public place, and secure everything with a password, or encrypt the disk. This should be common sense, but people are careless…
- Only advertise what you need to. Never post your full email address in a public forum: replace the @ symbol with something else.
- Switch off wireless broadcasting on your router if you have no wireless PCs.
- Never install anything from a website. Seriously. Download it (“Save as”) to your PC. Never believe those websites that offer you a free spyware scan or the like.
- Stop spam. Never post your full email address on public forums. Don’t forward on jokes that have been forwarded several times or “Worst ever!” virus warnings.
- Be careful and act responsibly. If you have children, it’s up to you to make sure that they are safe and secure. Never allow them to use your work IT equipment without monitoring them – you can put your job at risk. If they use the internet, make sure that they cannot visit inappropriate sites or cause damage, be it to your files or your reputation. In other words: you as a parent are responsible for your children’s actions.