Friday, July 3, 2009

Breaking PC Security in 8 Simple Steps

Breaking PC Security in 8 Simple Steps

Author: charlemont
Below you will find several mistakes which I find to be typical of PC users. Not all of them are crucial alone, but taken together they can have a drastic impact on overall PC security. It doesn't cost a dime to know what you shouldn't be doing at all and what you should be doing in a proper way. Some mistakes lead to frustrated experience, and I want you to avoid it.

1. Expecting too much from your current antivirus program. In fact, relying on antivirus alone is dangerous by itself because people are inclined to trust vendors who claim to provide 100% detection rate and fastest scans in the world. The truth is: every antivirus can fail sooner or later. Statements of 100% detection are based on laboratory-carried tests which rarely have anything in common with real life surfing, downloading, watching videos etc. Antivirus is important, sure, but only as part of multi-layered protection.

2. Ignoring Microsoft Windows updates. Microsoft releases security hotfixes for Windows and its products (Internet Explorer, Office, etc) which are meant to cover revealed vulnerabilities. It is important to have them installed in the system. Same applies to 3d party software which is common in netbooks and desktop computers. Keep your Java, Adobe, Firefox patched. Software manufacturers do have reasons to provide updates. For instance, a Java vulnerability has been used to spread Virtumonde, a really nasty infection.

3. Using Symantec antivirus. This is debatable, a lot of people are fans of Symantec products, and they have reasons to. But my little experience helping PC owners to get rid of various types of malware shows that Symantec protection is common on infected computers. Its protection is insufficient, to put it mildly. If you can switch to another antivirus software, do it. There are better alternatives priced lower than Symantec.

4. Installing fake or rogue antispyware program. I just can't stress enough how important it is. It happens with user consent and permission. How? Simple. Getting persuaded to get a decent antispyware protection, an average PC user goes online and looks for some "best antispyware". This is a common keyphrase targeted by scammers. They go to great lengths to make their websites rank high for this particular term. Unsuspecting user downloads something titled very close to a famous brand and instantly infects the system with malware, while resting assured that "best antispyware" will put a strong shield on the way of intruders. It is not that rare to come across a PC unintentionally infected with malicious, fake antispyware program.

5. Forgetting to renew antivirus subscription. Depending on how your antivirus was initially configured, it may not warn about expired subscription. Expired antivirus is not receiving latest updates and its real-time monitor can be deactivated. So it makes sense to keep an eye on your antivirus shield.

6. Configuring software firewall is not a simple task. Even those programs with self-learning mode need some time to "get familiar" with running applications. But a properly configured firewall is a great helper to your safety, it minimizes the chances of intrusion from the network.

7. Using a potentially vulnerable email client. So, Outlook Express has become notorious for its ability to miss messages with dangerous attachments and links to malicious websites. A good email client should have some sort of "internal intelligence" to make the user's experience as safe as possible. It's best not to open messages coming from suspicious addresses. Also, configure your email to be scanned by antivirus. Set in the options to receive only headers of messages instead of bodies; this way you will be able to read titles of the messages without downloading them onto your computer. It allows to quickly detect suspicious messages.

8. Using one and same email address for all kinds of activities – registering at forums, sending out messages to friends and colleagues, communicating with financial institutions, etc. Ideally you should have several inboxes to divide your incoming mail. So, Inbox 1 would be used for work-related correspondence only. Inbox 2 would keep emails from PayPal, eBay, Moneybookers, etc. It is important that you never use this account for sending messages to anywhere except these and other companies. Inbox 3 is used to download all kinds of activation links from forums, thread updates, promotional letters from Internet Marketing gurus, etc. The idea is that Inbox 3 will be full of spam, while Inbox 1 and 2 will be relatively non-spammed. Finally, use Inbox 4 to communicate with friends. By organizing your email correspondence this way you will always spot that phishing letter. If PayPal sends warnings or requests to your Inbox 4 (instead of Inbox 3 which you have used to set up PayPal account), you immediately know its phishing and should be reported.

Kelly Wright has published a series of hubs about malware removal. She helps PC owners to get rid of infections and stay immune to online threats. Set up your free PC security!


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