Tuesday, January 9

Safe-guarding your computer

Steve and Bradd have a post today, Zombie Computer Threat Increasing , about bot nets and zombie computers that made me want to double- check my computers and their security. This post links to an NYT article, Attack of the Zombie Computers Is Growing Threat that was interesting to me, but probably not to you. The NYT article links to some tips for protecting your computer, Tips for Protecting the Home Computer, but they're pretty generic and blan d, which is really why I de cided to write this post.

In case you don't know me, let me tell you where I'm coming from: I'm not paranoid about the Internet AT ALL. I buy things from Amazon and eBay. I trust secure sites to protect my information. I like PayPal. So if you're looking for failsafe protection, you'll have to look elsewhere (though I'll tell you where).

(I'm also not going to talk a lot about what to do if you're ALREADY infected with bots. If that's the case, try Wikipedia's entry on Zombie computers , and click on their link to
A detailed account of what a zombie machine looks like and what it takes to "fix"it ).

Now, to get on with it.

I am both lazy and a big fan of Support Alert, so I'm just going to lean on Gizmo's recommendations for this little tutorial. Gizmo is paranoid, and his computers are far more secure than mine. Just reading through his 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities will point you to the kinds of measures he takes. If you're that into it, you should also subscribe to his newsletter to make sure you're getting the latest information.

Let me encourage you: this is not that hard and not expensive. My coverage is free and relatively easy. You should be able to pull this off if you can download software and install it.

Another great thing about Gizmo's guides: he points to the pay options, too, if you really want to go whole hog.

Okay, here's what you need, in my opinion:

1. Anti-Virus : I use AVG and like it quite well.
2. Anti-Ad/Spy/Scumware: I use Windows Defender (though it pains me, since I'm a little anti-Microsoft ;-).
3. Firewall: I use the Windows firewall as well, but may need to upgrade here.
4. Browser: If you're still surfing with Internet Explorer, it is also a security risk. You may want to switch to Firefox or something else.
5. Wireless: If you have a wireless router, you should secure it with a password. The manufacturer should provide instructions on how to do this.

That's it. If you get this much protection going, regularly updated, you are going to be, say, 95% of the way there. Beyond that, you better study up, maybe starting with Gizmo's recommendations.

Ask questions in the comments. Someone else might have 'em, too!
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