Having a connection to the Internet can make your computer vulnerable to a myriad of security threats. That is why it is very important to be informed about Internet security. Being proactive is probably the most important thing you can do when it comes to Internet security.
Because Microsoft Windows is particularly vulnerable to threats on the Internet, this page will primarily focus on how to protect yourself if you're running this operating system. If you're running a Mac OS you should still be running a personal firewall and consider using antivirus software. Below are some links to virus protection software and firewall suggestions for Mac users.
Staying current with updates is your first step in protecting your computer from threats on the Internet. Typically, when Microsoft discovers a security hole, they release a patch for it that you can download and install through the Windows Update website. Often there is little or no mention of such discoveries until they become a wide-spread problem, so it is important that you stay on top of things before you become a victim of the latest threat. Since most people don't want the burden of keeping up with new security problems, we recommend enabling automatic updates so they can readily be protected against many threats before they've even spread across the Internet.
Microsoft has released Service Pack 2 for Windows XP which addresses many of these security concerns so it is recommended that if you are running Windows XP you download and install that as well. Below are links to the Windows update site, an instructional page for turning on automatic updates and an instructional page about Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. Please note that the service pack installs Microsoft XP's firewall if it doesn't detect a firewall already running. If you notice any Internet traffic problems after installing the service pack, you should review the firewall's settings. Once you have installed the service pack and made all of your changes, you should consider downloading and running Microsoft's Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer for an audit of your system security (on Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 systems).
- Windows Updates
- Configuring Automatic Updates
- Service Pack 2 for Windows XP
- Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer
Running an Internet firewall can very effectively protect against many Internet threats. Essentially a firewall blocks Internet traffic from entering or leaving your computer that you haven't deemed appropriate through the firewall settings. As with anything you're running on your computer, if you choose to run a firewall you should be fully aware of what it's doing and how to use it properly. Running a firewall used to be a difficult task but now there are a variety of simple, but effective, firewall options available to you. We generally recommend either of the following:
Internet Connection Firewall for Windows XP
The Windows Internet Connection Firewall is very simple and easy to work with. This is only an option if you're running Windows XP. It will allow the most commonly used traffic to pass through with no problem while blocking harmful intrusions and allows for some very basic configuration.
This is a good option if you're only using your computer to view web pages and email, but not the best option if you run any type of services from your computer as it does not allow for any detailed configuration. Another benefit of this firewall is that you do not have to install any third party software. A link is provided below for more information and instructions on how to turn on the Internet Connection Firewall for Windows XP.
Zone Labs offers a free version of their firewall software which is a better option for more seasoned users. Zone Alarm works well as a firewall and allows for more configuration options, including for any services you may be running on your computer. It also offers detailed logging of all Internet activity, including any attempts your computer makes to access the Internet, and any attempts that are made from the outside to access your computer. This can be very helpful in blocking and tracking down the sources of things like viruses, worms, and spyware. A link is provided below for more information and instructions on how to download and install Zone Alarm.
It is very important that you have some type of virus protection software running on your computer. The most common way to get a virus is through email. To help protect yourself never open an attachment, even from someone you know, unless you are positive it is safe. Many virus protection programs can be configured to scan email and attachments as you download them to help ensure you don't become infected with a virus. Always practice the "better safe than sorry" rule when it comes to email and attachments.
Keeping your virus protection software up to date is crucial. Regularly updating your virus definitions will ensure you're protected against the latest threats, and most programs will allow you to automate this process. Below are links to some programs and websites we recommend for virus protection:
- Norton Antivirus
- McAfee VirusScan
- AVG Internet Security
- AVG AntiVirus Free Edition (Free for non-business use)
- House Call Online Virus Scan
Internet Explorer has been known to be very vulnerable to exploits which can cause you to become infected with a worm or otherwise compromise your system. This is likely because it is the most widely used and thus the biggest target for attacks; regardless of the reason, you may wish to consider installing an alternate browser. Below are links to some alternate browsers for Microsoft Windows.
Spyware is almost always installed, while visiting web sites or installing other software, without the users' knowledge. Spyware generally is used to track browsing habits and relay them to advertisers and other third parties but some spyware is more insidious. All Spyware has the potential of being harmful as it is designed to track your personal information and most people don't want it on their computers. We have created a separate web page dedicated to Spyware help which you can visit by clicking the link below: Spyware