Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Five Free Ways To Protect Against Viruses And Spyware

People are starting to wake up to the fact that the internet is not always a friendly place, and that there are lots of ways for unfriendly people to attack your computer. There are hundreds of articles on the internet that illustrate how you can protect yourself and your PC or Mac, but you don't need to read them all. Just follow these five* points (in descending order of importance) and you'll be fine.
  1. Don't connect to the internet. This sounds stupid, but plenty of people have asked me how they should secure systems that they use for video-editing and music purposes. If you can afford to, set up a dedicated PC for tasks that don't need internet access. Unless you are in the habit of installing cracked software downloaded from another computer (see #3 below) you will be pretty safe.
  2. Use a hardware firewall. If you have broadband internet access then your PC is relatively safe behind the firewall built into your router. If you use a USB modem, upgrade to an Ethernet router. You can still use a software firewall, like the one built into Windows, but don't rely on it.
  3. Don't download free porn, cracked software or pirated movies or music. I know people who have had their systems infected by spyware. It is almost always after they have downloaded free porn (including Paris Hilton pictures - does that count as porn?) or movies off BitTorrent.
  4. Install all those boring Windows security updates. I know everyone trots this bit of advice out, and it's not a cure-all, but it makes sense to plug known security holes.
  5. Log into your computer using a Limited account. Am I serious? Well, if you are going to use the web then yes, I am. Running a web browser as Administator is unnecessarily risky unless you are actually doing some administration on your system.

Have you noticed that I have not included installing anti-virus software as a security measure? Or messing around with Internet Explorer's security settings? Or avoiding email attachments from people you don't know? That is because good anti-virus is usually expensive (and isn't 100 per cent accurate anyway), Internet Explorer's security settings are complicated and, if you don't know about email attachments by now, then all hope is lost.

* OK, there is a sixth point, and it's not free.

  1. Install a good anti-virus program if you are going to connect to the internet using an Administrator account.