Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Protect Your Computer

9 Ways to Stay Away from Hackers, Spyware, and Viruses

I admit that I’m not a Computer Wizard, yet using a computer since I was 8 years old without a brother to fix it when it went wrong had forced me to learn everything I can to care for my computer. So yeah, maybe I’m the “technician” when it comes to my family.
I have noticed that many users I know have little or no knowledge about computer protection. Especially now that almost everyone with a computer has internet access, having the necessary protection is a must. Internet is a good place to get freebies. You get to download songs, music videos, movies, e-books, games, and softwares – you name it. But just as much as there are goodies in the internet, so do the bad stuff – Viruses, Worms, Trojans, Malwares, and Spywares. What’s more scary is that since the advent of wifi, more and more users have become connected to a computer network. One attack by the bad guys and all the computers connected are doomed. But don’t despair; you don’t have to be a computer wizard to be able to have a secured computer or a secured network. Everyone can learn. Here are some of the guidelines you could follow to help protect your computer.

Get an Antivirus Software

It’s the most basic thing you could do to help protect your computer. You could either download an antivirus software for free or buy one. Before you choose your antivirus software, learn about the software and what protection it offers. Some antivirus softwares are bundled with anti-spyware, anti-malware, firewall, or all of the above. Read the reviews so you get the idea how efficient the software is and what else you need to do if the software has downsides. These antivirus softwares have real-time scanning capabilities. So it can detect viruses while scanning on the background. You get to do the normal things you do with your computer while allowing the software to detect unwanted entities. However, my rule of the thumb is, although the antivirus software scans as you go, you still have to manually full system scan your computer at least once a week. In addition, you need to update your antivirus database regularly to help protect your computer from new viruses.

Get an Anti-Spyware or Anti-Malware Program

If your antivirus software is bundled with this type of program, then good. But most antivirus softwares out there aren’t perfect, especially free softwares. So you need to download another program specifically made to protect your computer from spywares and malwares. Spywares and malwares are more harmful than viruses, as viruses can only harm your computer when accessing an infected executable file or *.exe file. These two however are far more intelligent programs. As these get bundled with the freebies you download from the Internet, most of these are being installed without you knowing it. When these get installed, you may not see the harm immediately, but they are capable of giving information to the hacker in many ways depending on the spyware or malware. Of course, you don’t want your information to be sent to the hacker! Anti-Spyware and Anti-Malware Programs work the same with Antivirus Softwares. You need to scan at least once a week (but more preferably each time after you install a new program), and update the database regularly. Most of the Anti-Spyware/Anti-Malware Softwares that can be downloaded for free do not have real-time scanning capabilities. So they won’t detect any harmful programs unless you manually scan. Also, using a single Anti-Spyware or Anti-Malware Software might not be enough especially when downloaded for free. You have to at least have two to three of these softwares installed on your computer to get the maximum security.

Secure Your Network with a Password

Do you have your own computer network? Then secure it with a password! WPA2 is a good security type, but does not always work for older computers. Just remember that WPA is better than WEP. Not only does securing your network with a password will protect you from hackers, those freeloading neighbours won’t be able to access your internet as well. I am particularly strict about this, as the Internet in the Philippines could be quite slow, especially in an overpopulated area. So I see to it that my home network is secure. I don’t want my bandwidth to be crowded by parasitic neighbours, thus further slowing down my Internet.

Be Careful when Using Public Wifi

Public Wifi usually don’t have a security key, subjecting network users to a type of hacking called sidejacking. In this type of hacking, the hacker uses a program called Firesheep and phishes out for other network users’ activities. When the hacker sidejacks, the pages of what you are currently viewing will appear in his computer window. So when you are currently viewing your facebook, he can access the page and change your password. Avoid using your personal accounts when using public wifi. Do not access your Facebook, email, AmazoniTunes, or any other similar accounts. Some users would counter this hacking method by using a Firefox add-on such as Https-Everywhere or similar to that. This will change every page you visit from http to https. Having a URL with an HTTPS gives more security against hackers. You might also notice that whenever you log in your account, you will see HTTPS at the beginning of the URL whenever you type in your password. But as soon as you’re out of the log in page, you are no longer secured, and just like any other page you browse, can be subjected to hackers. Of course, you can always manually change the URL into https, but that can be a tedious task.

Avoid Visiting Untrusted Sites

Of course, you won’t be able to know which sites are untrusted unless you experience the harm by it. So here’s a useful Firefox add-on, also available as a Google Chrome app, called the WOT, or Web-of-Trust. The information this app gives is based on users’ ratings of every webpage you will visit. When you surf through search engine, results will appear as hyperlinks. Beside the link is a small WOT indicator will appear. A green color means the site is trustworthy. Red means untrusted. Having WOT installed in your browser will enable you to avoid clicking those harmful webpages. It is indeed helpful when checking my inbox. Some of my friends will unknowingly send me email messages with a mysterious link. By having a WOT installed on my browser, I could easily determine whether to click the link or delete the message right away.

Build a Firewall

This is particularly important when you love downloading files. By downloading files through programs such as BitTorrent, you allow one or more of your ports to be accessible with other users. Having a firewall will help you customize which incoming data to enter your computer. It can be quite tricky to use firewall especially on a network. Sometimes, activating your firewall interferes with network access, so you really have to be proficient in networking.
Make sure that whatever you plug into your computer is free from infection.
Make sure that whatever you plug into your computer is free from infection.

Be Cautious when Accessing Your Friend’s Flash Drive

USB flash drive has become a ubiquitous tool for data transfer. Sometimes, it is inevitable to use other people’s flash drive especially if your friend wants to give you some files. Your friend has pure intentions to share her files, but sometimes, her computer might be infected (and also the drive) without her knowing it. You should therefore exercise precautions before accessing her flash drive. One thing for you to do this is to scan the drive before opening it. Do not access her files through autoplay. Always close the autorun window by clicking on the X mark on the upper right corner of the window rather than clicking cancel. Some malicious files are capable of infecting your computer by just clicking the OK or Cancel commands that appear. To be on the safe side, close the autorun window, scan, and right click on the icon and explore.

Do Not Accept Files from an Unknown Source

An example of this would be through Yahoo Messenger. Maybe, you like to meet friends online and chat with them through YM. That’s ok, but don’t accept anything they send you. By accepting a file being sent to you, you are making your computer vulnerable to that person. Who knows? Your online friend might be a hacker. He could use the first few seconds of your downloading time to do his deed. So always be careful!

Use Your Common Sense

Of course, the abovementioned guidelines aren’t foolproof in the same way like our bodies are still susceptible to diseases no matter how healthy our lifestyles are. When all else fails, you should only rely on your common sense. These harmful entities are machine operated, not you. It is still your decision whether to download, access, or click a button or two when using your computer. There are cases when a message box would suddenly appear, stating that your computer has been infected. You are prompted to click a button. By using your commonsense, you could determine whether the mysterious message comes from your own system or from the webpage you are currently viewing. When it is indeed from the webpage, close the window (the X button, not Cancel), and run your antivirus software.