[Guide] - How to secure your pc
[Guide] - How to secure your pc
A little story to start things off
You are the head of a secret research facility. It contains many valuable secrets, surely a place to guarded carefully. That's why you employ a security guard, who checks everyone going in and out of the facility using a list of known criminals. Not only that, even if someone is not on the list, he even checks for things like crowbars and stuff, to determine whether someone is supicious or not! Surely security will not get any better than this!
You take a look at the facility and see the walls are a bit damaged at places. Maybe you should repair them sometime. But those are later worries. The real problem is that the place needs a nice paintjob or something. It's a nice day so you decide to go outside to look for someone willing to paint the facility.
It must be your lucky day, because after a bit of searching, you find just the guy. You aren't too sure where he is from or who he is, but he will do it for free! And he even has some very nice ideas for the facility! That will lighten things up a bit!
A few hours later, the research facility is in flames. The painter turned out to be a spy who stole all sorts of information and sabotaged vital systems. To make matters worse, some other spies managed to get in through the holes in the walls. And they somehow managed to launch nukes from your place. You also lost all the information. You never made any copies.
The story above might seem a bit strange to you. It seems obvious that things will go wrong like that. The thing is you do the exact same (probably). The research facility? It's actually your pc. The secrets it contains? Information, like credit card numbers and the like. The guard? Your virusscanner, which is probably the only defense you have. The walls with holes? Outdated applications which need to be updated to patch some security holes. The painter? A program you installed that was actually a trojan horse. The nukes that were launched? Spam mails, send from your pc.
In this guide, I will dicuss how to secure your pc.
Defense #1 - Common sense - stop installing loads of crap
The first line of defense and the most important one is your common sense. Think before you act! Don't just download random programs and install them! Many people download all sorts of 'usefull' programs, like smiley packs for MSN, toolbars, add-ons and so on. These 'usefull' programs are often a source of malware and the virus scanner simply cannot stop all of it. Furthermore, these programs tend to slow things down by taking up resources.
Before installing or downloading something, you should always consider whether you really need it. Do your really need that smiley pack? Or can you also do wtihout it? Furthermore, you should always make sure you only install things from a secure source. Installing every program you can find on vague sites is bound to get you in trouble.
Defense #2 - Virusscanner
If you don't already have one, go install one right now. It doesn't need to cost a lot. There a plenty of free virusscanners around. Personally, I use Avast! free, but it is mostly a matter of preference. You are free to use whichever you like.
Defense #3 - Passwords
Many people tend to use one password for just about everything. Not all websites are secure though and if one of them gets hacked, chances are they gain access to all of your accounts. This actually happened to one of our staff members. So make sure you use a different password for every site. There is no need to remember them by yourself. There are enough password managers around, which are capable of storing and automatically filling in your passwords. Be sure you use one of a reputable source though.
Defense #4 - Updating
In most cases, Windows will auto-update. If it doesn't, you should check for updates reguraly and install them. Other programs are not likely to auto-update. You can download a program called secunia PSI to help you. It will keep track of which applications need to be updated and can even auto-update some of them.
Defense #5 - making back-ups
Always make back-ups of important data. Not just the data on your pc, but also on other devices like external hard drives. It seems logical, but almost nobody takes the time and effort required for it. Drives can get broken and files can get deleted or corrupted. Recently a friend of mine lost loads of pictures on her external hard drive because it got broken. Windows Vista and Windows 7 have built-in tools to make back-ups of your pc. It's quite easy to use, so go and make those back-ups!
Some more advanced/paranoid ways to secure your pc
Tool #1 - sandboxie
Tool #2 - noscript for Firefox
Think of your PC as a piece of paper. Every program you run writes on the paper. When you run your browser, it writes on the paper about every site you visited. And any malware you come across will usually try to write itself into the paper.
Traditional privacy and anti-malware software try to locate and erase any writings they think you wouldn't want on the paper. Most of the times they get it right. But first the makers of these solutions must teach the solution what to look for on the paper, and also how to erase it safely.
On the other hand, the Sandboxie sandbox works like a transparency layer placed over the paper. Programs write on the transparency layer and to them it looks like the real paper. When you delete the sandbox, it's like removing the transparency layer, the unchanged, real paper is revealed.