Security for the masses

Is your computer safe?

Well if it is connected to the Internet and you browse the Web then no, it isn't.
However there are things you can do to increase your online safety, read on.

There are many ways to mitigate or reduce the likelyhood that your computer will be compromised by malicious software or hackers.
Keeping your operating system, be it Windows, a Linux distrubution or OSX updated with the latest patches and updates significantly reduces the scope for an attack be it a web based or network based to compromise your PC. Use any automatic upadating system that your operating system provides.

Applications such as Word processors, Spread sheets, Databases, Web browsers, File viewers: Foxit, Adobe Acrobat, image processing software and other commonly used applications are often flawed and vulnerabilities are discovered in them that could be exploited to compromise your machine. Regularly check that you have the latest updates and patches installed for all you applications.

Anti-virus software although not perfect, it may not be able to detect the very latest malware, will provide some level of protection especially against known viruses and trojans. Install anti-virus software and allow it to update itself.

Use anti-spyware software and scan your computer regularly for trojans, adware and spyware. Keep your anti-spyware updated.

Safety whilst browsing the Web

Whenever you view a web page in a browser that page is downloaded to your PC and the HTML code is processed by the browser to render the page you see. HTML which is the language or code in which web pages are written is pretty much safe. There are other languages and code in use on web pages though and these can make your browser perform actions that are unsafe. Languages such as Javascript and code such as ActiveX and Java applets can compromise your computers security, especially when such code targets vulnerabilities in the processes that render the pages in your browser. There are solutions that let you choose which websites you allow to run Java code on your PC. There is the NoScript addon for Mozilla Firefox which will allow you to dynamically choose which sites can run Java. In other browsers, Javascript processing can be turned off. Denying the running of Javascript however can break some websites to the point that they do not work or render correctly. I personally use Firefox and NoScript for the ease of control over Java enabled websites.

Downloading and running of executable files from unknown and or untrusted websites should be avoided. Especially those websites that tell you that a video codec or another program must be downloaded an run before you can view the content. The wise choice would be to avoid these sites and do without the content. If a banner or popup appears on a website stating you are the one millionth visitor or the like and that you should click to claim a prize, the prize is likely to be malware. Don't click. If a website ever informs you that your computer is infected by a virus or trojan, and offers a link to a software download which will clean the infection from you computer, just close the browser, don't click the link. These are some of the more common fake anti-virus programs: Winfixer, Green Antivirus 2009, SpySheffif, MS Antivirus2009. I will leave it as an exercise for yourself to search the Internet for more information on thse progams. If you are worried run your own trusted anti-virus and anti-spyware software to check. The solution page lists a few honest ones.

Email scams

Every so often an email will arrive in your inbox that offers something for free, Don't follow up on these emails. It is almost certain that the links contained within unsolicited emails will link to a website that will attempt to install malware on your PC. There is no such thing as a free lunch? As far as emails offering freebies go this is true. Sometimes a message will arrive that appears to be from your bank or inland revenue service with a link to a logon page for your bank account or a page requesting you download a tax statement, bank balance or some such. Don't go there this will invariably lead to a phishing attempt or a malware download. Just delete these kind of mails immediately. I would suggest any email that comes form a source that you have not supplied your email address to is deleted without even considering the content. Never ever run or open an attachment from an unknown source, no matter how enticing the title or content of the email.

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