March 31st, 2008 - by Golgotha

computer-security
I have subscriptions to both PC Magazine and PC World magazine. The thing is I only read about half of each magazine when it comes in the mail because they both dedicate so much time to two subjects I care nothing about: cell phones and security.

I have a cell phone, it works – well kinda – so I don’t care about them.

The other is security. I too have a security plan in place that has worked for the last ten years, so I don’t need a review of every anti-virus, spyware, malware, and firewall software that comes to market.

But, seeing the amount of coverage these magazines dedicate to security I’m thinking it must be a hot issue. So I decided I would share my security plan with you all. I fully disclose that this may not be the “best” security plan out there. I’m sure that if some C2-level security specialist read this he would chuckle, but like I said, it’s proven effective for me over the last decade and it’s probably a lot better than what most people currently have in place.

All the software I use is free so that is why you will see these products listed below. Oh, that and the fact they all work extremely well.

1. Email – Gmail

Viruses don’t create themselves. You have to get a virus from another source, so if you never download files your chances of acquiring a virus are very slim. So by allowing Google to be the repository of my emails, instead of my own computer, they will be the ones to get exposed to the virus and not my computer, should there be one. That said, Gmail blocks spam before it gets to your inbox so any suspect emails wouldn’t even likely pass Google. It goes without saying I never open attachments from someone I don’t know.

2. Firewall – ZoneAlarm

A firewall is a dedicated piece of hardware, or software, which inspects network traffic passing through it, and denies or permits passage based on a set of rules. Get one! I have used ZoneAlarm for years. It works, it’s free, and it’s easy to setup and use. So if you don’t have a firewall get ZoneAlarm now.

3. Proper WiFi Setup

It’s pretty common place these days for homes to have a WiFi router in place which allows all members of the family to access the internet from anywhere in the house. The problem is it’s equally common that people don’t secure those connections.

I recently had a neighbor ask me if my wireless connection was MarksHome because she had that as one of her wireless network options. I told her that while I do have a wireless network she would never see it because I don’t broadcast the signal. I only allow computers that I have specified, via MAC address, to access my router. This is pretty easy to do. If you have a Linksys router, under Wireless find the tab Wireless MAC Filter and add MAC addresses to the MAC Filter List. Then disable Wireless SSID Broadcast. That’s it; now no one can see you and only the computers you allow can access your network.

4. Anti-Virus – AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

Most people have some type of Anti-Virus software on their computer so that’s good, just be sure to keep it updated. I really like AVG Anti-Virus for a few reasons: 1. It’s free 2. It works great 3. It updates itself when I turn on my computer and 4. It has an incredibly small footprint. Some Anti-Virus software programs (cough McAfee) can really chew up system resources. This can slow down frame-rates when you’re gaming and that’s no good…

5. Spyware – Ad-Aware 2007

Spyware is software that is installed on your computer (without your consent) to intercept or take partial control over your interaction. Spyware programs can collect various types of personal information, such as internet surfing habits, sites that have been visited and can also interfere with user control of the computer in other ways, such as installing additional software, redirecting Web browser activity, accessing websites blindly that will cause more harmful viruses, or diverting advertising revenue to a third party.

All that sucks, right? So you should use a program like Ad-Aware which detects deceptive malware and spyware applications before they integrate into your PC and steal your personal information.

Conclusion

Once again, this may not be the highest level of security obtainable, but it’s pretty darn good. It should at least be the minimal security steps you take.

NOTE: This article has been for Windows users since Macs don’t get viruses 🙂

Also I want to give a special warning to college students. College campuses are breeding grounds for viruses and not just STDs either, so take precautions.

14 Responses to “The Last Guide to Security You’ll Ever Need”

1 Doug Woodall

Great article.
Zone Alarm and Ad-Aware are great products. I used both for years with great results. Im trying BitDefender on my new lappie with Vista right now to see how good it is.
My wife switched from AVG to Avast last year. I dont remember why.
Wouldnt it be great if more users were as educated about online safety.
Sigh….

2 Dan Schulz

For the anti-spyware part of my security measures, I use a combination of Ad-Aware, Spybot Search & Destroy and SpywareBlaster.

As for email, I’m currently using Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo but I’m not very fond of any of them (though Yahoo has gotten MUCH better at blocking spam lately; this time last year I was getting upwards of 300 spam emails a day in my bulk folder – now I’m lucky to get ten per day). Whatever you do though, DO NOT USE OUTLOOK OR OUTLOOK EXPRESS for your email. End of story.

3 Golgotha

@Doug – “Wouldnt it be great if more users were as educated about online safety.” Yes, it would be…

@Dan – I used Outlook for years, but would never go back. Not so much for security reasons, but it doesn’t have threaded emails…

4 Patrick Burt

Practicing safe surfing and safe practices is possibly the biggest security issue. That’s why I can safely run in an environment without a virus scanner.

5 Golgotha

@Patrick – Great point! You don’t need protection if you practice abstinence 🙂

6 Gonzolisa

ZoneAlarm Free is a way behind – Comodo Firewall (Lifetime licence FREE)
Spyware – Spybot – Search & Destroy

7 Braintrove.com

Thanks for the information!

8 Jayson

Thanks for the list. I’ve been using Windows Live Care and everything is going fine (does cost money though). After thinking about it, I’ve never paid for security before – not sure why I did this time. Thanks for the list and if you ever do want to buy Microsoft software, wait until the subscription expires and they’ll give you a 40-50% discount (3 computers for $29).

9 Jack @ The Tech Teapot

The most secure wireless I know is: don’t use wireless. I’ve setup my house with ethernet over power and it works a treat. All comms are encrypted by default.

10 Golgotha

@Jack – Don’t use wireless – and I thought I was old school 🙂 That won’t help my DS. That won’t help you blog from outside….

11 Patrick Burt

@Jack, Agreed, we have ethernet cables in our house running from the second story to the basement (and no, they aren’t behind walls..)

12 Jack @ The Tech Teapot

@Golgotha – you wouldn’t want to blog outside my place whether you wireless or not. 🙂

13 Alvin Nyau

Practicing periodically virus scanning is also important to make sure your system is not affected.

Great article anyway!

14 charlie

I have security in just one step, instead of five:

Use GNU/LINUX!

Let virus keep their windows.

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