How to Keep Your Computer Safe From Hackers

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Did you know that the more you spend time on the Internet, the more vulnerable your computer becomes to hackers, viruses and malicious programs? In fact, a recent report showed that in the first ten minutes of being online, a computer could be exposed to 10,000 different types of threats.

One way to protect your computer is to install an antivirus program. This is software that could detect viruses and prevent them from infecting your computer.

But this is only one way. There are many kinds of computer threats that a mere antivirus program cannot completely stop.

In this report, you will learn more about how to increase the level of security in your home computer and protect your information from being stolen or compromised.

Firewall

Consider this your first line of defense against computer security threats. Basically, a firewall works by enforcing security measures in your network to decide who can access your computer. This prevents outside intruders from maliciously accessing your computer system and tampering with its settings or your hard drive.

Moreover firewalls can help control how people within your network access outside resources. In other words, it can reinforce your existing surf control so that certain unsecured websites remain inaccessible from within your network for greater protection.

However, like every other type of software, not all firewall programs are the same. Some may have more features than others. Some are free. Some are not. Some may contain features that are not present in others, and vice versa.

Understand that when it comes to choosing software programs, like firewalls, the rule of thumb is this: the more features, the better. Common sense will tell you that a catch-all program is better than a program that is dedicated to solving only one security issue.

Then again, the inherent weakness in full-suite solutions is that since they target broad security issues, they might not be quite as efficient as system and problem-specific software in dealing with a particular issue. And you, the buyer, will therefore be left with the same old question: which one can give your home computer more protection?

Read on to find out.

Need Assessment

When deciding to buy a firewall program, the first question to ask is what you need it for.

If you are a home surfer who spends maybe two to six hours a day on the Internet, then you probably do not need sophisticated software for security purposes. In fact, you can probably do with a free firewall program to protect your computer.

On the other hand, if you run a business, then you need to consider other factors, including the following:

  • Size of the business
  • Type of data traffic
  • Expectations for rapid growth
  • Number of mobile workers
  • IT budget

By considering all these factors, you can save money down the road, as well as successfully prevent an attack on your computer network.

For example, if you expect rapid growth of business in the next few years, then it is advisable that you go with a firewall program that is highly scalable. That way, you only need to do upgrades for your existing program to handle increased network traffic and additional clients.

Another significant factor is the capability of your IT staff as this will help you determine how complex your firewall program should be.

Hardware vs. Software Firewall

There are advantages to both types of firewall program. For hardware firewall, for instance, its main advantage is that its set up is much easier and deployment much faster to accomplish than software firewalls. Moreover, hardware firewalls make your system less susceptible to outside attacks because it has its own embedded code built into an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). The dedicated ASIC also helps process traffic much faster.

On the other hand, while software firewalls are less easy to set up and to deploy, they are nevertheless easier to upgrade compared to hardware firewalls. As such, software firewalls are recommended if your network is complex and makes use of multiple interfaces.

Antivirus

For an effective antivirus program, you need a program that has adopts a two-pronged approach to fighting viruses – that is, it not only scans all incoming emails but also runs on your desktop to provide real-time protection.

As with firewalls, there are two types of antivirus programs. They are available as hardware appliances or as traditional software packages.

For hardware antivirus, they can range from low-end programs with multifunction capabilities but not very configurable to high-end devices that are highly configurable for complex networks.

Software antivirus solutions are, as always, infinitely configurable. However, the downside to them is that the higher the level of configurability of the package, the more complex it is to set up. So your choice would really depend on how far you are willing to go in order to improve the level of security of your computer.

If you are knowledgeable about software set up and installation, then you should probably try the more complex software packages. However, if you only know the basics, then you are better off with a simple antivirus solution.

In either case, the important thing to remember is that you get the most out of a given antivirus program.

Update Your Antivirus As Often As Possible

With new viruses created and propagated over the Internet every minute of every day, your antivirus program is only as good as the next update. Setup your antivirus program so that it will automatically update its files and configuration settings.

Enable Real-Time Scanning

This will allow your antivirus program to check any incoming mails or files for viruses before they even hit your hard drive.

Perform Regular Antivirus Scans

Also, you should scan all files in your computer, including but not limited to the following:

  • Image files
  • Streaming video clips
  • Audio snippets
  • Executable files
  • Compressed file types: ARJ, LHA, LZH, ZIP, RAR

Anti-spam

Unlike viruses and worms which can be very destructive, spam is relatively harmless. The problem with spam is that when they become too many, they can load up your server and eventually lead to a system crash down.

Anti-spam comes in two types. You can either purchase them as standalone products or as appliances. However, unlike antivirus programs which are relatively stable and uniform, anti-spam products remain different. As such, they require a lot of configuration and management in order for you to get the most out of them.

One thing you should always remember: get an anti-spam solution that combines several technologies with filtering-engine capabilities. Examples of these technologies are Byesian, heuristic, and sieve filters.

Here are more tips to help deal with spam issues in your network:

If you run a small business, consider outsourcing your anti-spam solution.

This is especially advisable if you lack IT support. By going with a service, you can avoid many headaches, such as configuration of the anti-spam device, management of spam queues, and restoring an employee’s mail system which was mistakenly caught by the anti-spam program. These little things can be left to someone from the outside so you can focus your attention on propagating and letting your business grow.

Appliance Anti-spam Device

As with any other security products, there are two kinds of anti-spam devices – ones you can purchase as standalone products and as appliances. Appliance anti-spam device is recommended if you want total control of your email and you have the expertise.

You can set up your own gateway-filtering device which can detect spam and stop it before it can get past your LAN.

Discourage Use of Work Email Addresses

Spambots are always crawling the Internet in search of email addresses to spam. They often search in newsletter sign-ups, registration forms, and forums which are often a rich source of email addresses. To avoid having your work email address picked up by one of these spambots, it is best if you avoid using your work email address when you sign up for anything on the Internet.

If you own a small business and you have people under your employ, encourage them not to use their work email address when they fill up registration forms online or sign up for newsletters. Moreover, do not publish your employees’ email address on your website.

Enable Black Lists

Most spam filter systems allow you to enable or disable black lists. This is a feature wherein you can maintain a database of known spam senders and domains, so that the next time your system encounters spam, the anti-spam will immediately match it up with the database entries to determine whether or not it is spam.

Note that some anti-spam programs allow you to add your own known spam entry into the database.

Enable White Lists

Basically an “allow list”, white lists are the most restrictive filtering systems for anti-spam. The program only allows those addresses and domains which are in your contacts lists. Those mails that come from unknown addresses will automatically get into your suspected mail folder, allowing you to review them and selectively determine if they are spam or not.

Moreover, the person who sent you that suspected mail will receive a verification email which they would have to fill up in order to be allowed into your “allow list.”

These are only three of the products available to improve the security of your computer. However, the real key to maintaining your network security is not really on your existing security products installed but on how well your patch management is. Always remember that your security software is only as good as the next update. So it is important to always update your security patches to keep up with the speed with which new viruses and worms can take advantage of new vulnerabilities in your system.

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