Computer Internet Security

Computer Internet Security

How to protect yourself from hackers and viruses and spyware, Oh my!

There are  many dangers in running an unprotected computer and awareness of the dangers and vigilance can insure continued peaceful and unhindered use of your PC. By implementing the measures indicated here, you can achieve computer internet security.

Threat Types

1. Intruder on my computer – The Internet is simply a big network where computers talk to other computers. Any computer has a unique address that can be expressed as a series of 4 numbers (such as 63.25.123.18). Communications from other computers to yours use your address like a phone number.

If your address is not blocked, hackers can use special programs to connect to your computer and get into it. They can then read and modify information, or even install and run malicious programs. You only want contact with other systems and parties where you initiated the contact or specifically allow to contact you first.

2. Viruses, Trojan horses and worms – These are programs that perform operations that are harmful to your computer. The damage could be minor and irritating such as putting up a silly message. However, the damage can also be very serious. The virus, Trojan horse or worm can damage and destroy all data and programs on the system. It can also enable identity theft by providing personal information to some external party. Some viruses, Trojans or worms can also capture all the owner’s keystrokes and monitor all the user’s activity to discover all the owner’s passwords. They can turn the computer into a robot to perform some activities on command such as attacking other computers without the owner even knowing about it. Webopedia has more details about viruses, Trojan horses and worms.

3. Spyware – Spyware is computer software that is installed secretly on a personal computer to intercept or take partial control over the user's interaction with the computer, without the user's informed consent.

While the term spyware suggests software that secretly monitors the user's behavior, the functions of spyware extend well beyond simple monitoring. Spyware programs can collect various types of personal information, but can also interfere with the user’s control of the computer in other ways, such as installing additional software, redirecting Web browser activity, popping annoying advertisements or diverting advertising revenue to a third party.

See Wikipedia's discussion of spyware

They are generally intrusive and slow down the performance of your computer.

4. Spam – Spam is any form of unrequested message. Its most common form is undesirable email. Spam can contain pornographic material, unsolicited business offers which are usually scams, and phony stock information.

Phishing content is a special form of spam (according to legislation, phishing refers to a person or a group of cyber-criminals who create an imitation or copy of an existing legitimate Web page to trick users into providing sensitive personal information). For example, you might receive an email from a bank stating that your account will be shut down if you do not provide certain information. The email will provide a link which will open a web page. The information requested on the page will be sensitive financial information. Although the email may look like it comes from a legitimate bank, it actually comes from thieves hoping to steal your assets and/or identity. Responding to "phishing" emails put your accounts at risk. 

Remedies

The first order of business is to adopt safe computing practices.

Keep your operating system up to date by applying the latest fixes provided by the vendor. These fixes are created to stop various flaws in the system that a hacker could exploit.

Don’t open attachments of emails from people that you don’t know. Don’t even open attachments from people that you do know unless you are sure they sent it to you.

Don’t install questionable software or games that you are unsure about from websites or people that can’t absolutely be trusted.

Never provide confidential financial or personal information in response to an email. Directly contact the sender yourself to verify that the request is legitimate.

1. Intruder on my computer – The best remedy against intruders is to implement firewall security. A firewall will hide your computer from hackers in the same way that an unlisted number protects you from undesirable phone calls.

The best firewall is a hardware firewall which can be provided by a simple box called a router. A firewall will change the address of each of your computers to one that can only be reached locally by computers on your own private network (this means all the computers that attach to the router and only connect to the outside world via the router). This provides your computer with something like an unlisted number. When they access your main public address, which is now the address of the router, they will get a “nobody here” response. The local addresses are designed so that they can’t be reached directly from outside. Thus, hackers can’t find you or get to you. 

To learn more about routers see Computer Network Components

A software firewall is a program that runs on your computer that accomplishes the same functions as a hardware router. It pays to turn on a software firewall in addition to a hardware firewall because it checks outgoing traffic and stops what's going out of your computer or private network that wasn’t sent out with your direct involvement and permission. If a malware ( bad or malicious program such as a virus or Trojan horse) program managed to get on your computer, it might try to communicate with the people that planted the malware on your computer.

The software firewall would prevent this.

2. Viruses, Trojan horses and worms – Anti virus programs provide protection against these threats. The program should have the ability to scan in various ways without using up so much of your computer’s power to do this that it slows down everything else that is going on.

It should be able to do a full scan of your system memory and all your files on a predefined schedule or on demand, scan your fileswhen you receive them, scan your files when you access them, and scan specified files on demand. The program should update itself with the latest threat information as required.

3. Spyware – Spyware cleaner software should detect all forms of spyware and offer the option for real time protection. It should be kept up to date regularly. It should also inform you of the level of risk of the spyware detected and offer you options for dealing with it.

4. Spam – Internet providers currently provide spam filtering as part of their service. For an additional level of protection, anti spam software provides spam control via content analysis, black lists (lists of senders to reject), white lists (list of senders not to block) and automatic capture of spam-like messages to a special folder that the user can review.

Summary

For maximum security you need a hardware firewall on a router, a software firewall that scans outgoing data, a good anti-virus program, and at least one anti-spyware program. These should be set to periodically check the manufacturer's website for updates and automatically install said updates if possible.

The best way to provide computer security software based protection is Internet Security Suite software. This is a coordinated collection of anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam and firewall software plus other features that are built to work together.

I use Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 which provides state of the art protection against Internet security threats.  It also has a light footprint and does not system performance very much. It really does a very good job.

Kaspersky Lab E-Store


Bitdefender used to be my first choice but I've discovered a number of shortcomings that have driven it from the top spot. I detail the Bitdefender problems that I have encountered in a post on my blog.

In addition to all of the above it is crucial to adopt safe computing practices. Microsoft has detailed information about this here: Microsoft safe computing practices



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8/21/2012



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