Always use a firewall. WindowsXP has a built in one. Alternatively, there are many third party firewalls both commercial and free ranging from “excellent” to “how on earth do I use this?”. If you choose not to use the Microsoft Firewall, it would be prudent to try a free one.
There are many fine applications available to control Spyware, both commercially available and free. It is important to use the software regularly.
Turn on the Spam filter provided by your ISP (Internet Service Provider). If you ISP doesn't include a Spam filter, you can obtain a Spam filter from a software company. Again, these are available, either for free or for a fee.
If you receive email from an unknown source, check to see who the sender is. If it's a strange address which ends with a two character extension, such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” it is probably Spam Again if the addressee is <Undisclosed Recipients> it is a bulk email and probably Spam Spam can contain Spyware and/or viruses.
When in doubt – delete it. If it was genuine, the sender will contact you asking you you ignored their email or blocked their account from your email
Always have AntiVirus software on you PC. Make sure that it is updated regularly and running in the background. Again, these are available, either for free or for a fee.
Overall the saying, “There's no such thing as a free lunch”, applies to software. When you are offered “free” screensavers, games or smiley's, read the agreement carefully. Do not be surprised when you find that you are agreeing to downloading more than you had expected, including software to monitor your web surfing, or agreeing to receive “Spam”.
Having said that, there is some very fine freeware available that doesn't do anything nefarious to your PC. Just exercise caution. As always with computers, if in doubt – don't!
If you use your computer to manage your checkbook, access you bank accounts, do stock trading, or anything with involves confidential or personal information, you must take precautions to avoid it being stolen.
One of the problems with data theft for ordinary people, is that because the data is copied to another computer, you may be unaware that it has been taken. In property theft, it is immediately apparent, you come home and your TV is missing, or you go to use your car, and it's not there. With data theft, the hacker has your data – but since you do too, you only know that it's gone when it is used against you.
For your data to be stolen, it requires that the hacker has electronic access to your system.
If you use a dial up modem, you are relatively safe, because hackers don't generally have the patience to work at such slow speeds. I suspect that they don't think that anyone who is going to use their computer seriously will access the Internet at such slow speeds.
If, however, you have DSL or cable Internet, then a hacker would be prepared to access your system.
If you leave your PC running all day with the cable modem left on, you have just left your house empty with the front door ajar.
Firstly, lets close the from door, and lock it. When you're not using the PC, turn it off, no one can access a powered down system remotely, unless you have it set up to power up when the modem or Internet accesses it – so don't do that. Always use a password to access your account, if if you live alone. It doesn't have to be difficult to remember, however, the longer the password is, and the more character styles that it contains is better. For example using your own name “jim” is relatively easy to guess/break but if Jim uses the fact that his dog was a Black Labrador when he was ten years old, and produces this password “Bl2ck1@br@d0r” it is very hard to break. You can see that I have used both upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols to create this, but Jim will be able to remember it reasonably easily as it's source is Black Labrador.
Secondly, lets dig a moat around our home (PC) turning it into a castle. Use a firewall, and decide who and what software, you will let use the drawbridge (pass through the firewall). Ensure that the firewall has a “panic” button so that you can stop all Internet traffic in a heartbeat.
We have now applied reasonable basic precautions. If you want to move towards paranoia, do the following, store your data off of the computer. If you have your data on a rewritable CD or DVD, or you put it onto a USB external hard drive, or a flash drive, and only plug that item into the PC when you want to access that date, your data is very secure.
If you have any questions or comments about these suggestions, please contact us at info@WesseXUSA.com
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