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.:: Securing your home computer is not a trivial task.
There are many topics to consider and many steps to follow. Enlisting the help of professional is crucial to secure your computer and your data. The dial up by modem days are gone... we live in a world where our computers are constantly connected to the internet, which of course increases how vulnerable our computers have become to intruders. And those intruders have had time to become very sophisticated. It is fair to say that we have all been victims of external attacks, via viruses, spyware or direct hackers.
.:: Your home computer is a popular target for intruders. Why?
Because intruders want what you’ve stored there. They look for credit card numbers, bank account information, and anything else they can find. By stealing that information, intruders can use your money to buy themselves goods and services.
But it’s not just money-related information they’re after. Intruders also want your computer’s resources, meaning your hard disk space, your fast processor, and your Internet connection. They use these resources to attack other computers on the Internet. In fact, the more computers an intruder uses, the harder it is for law enforcement to figure out where the attack is really coming from. If intruders can’t be found, they can’t be stopped, and they can’t be prosecuted.
Why are intruders paying attention to home computers? Home computers are typically not very secure and are easy to break into. When combined with high-speed Internet connections that are always turned on, intruders can quickly find and then attack home computers. While intruders also attack home computers connected to the Internet through dial-in connections, high-speed connections (cable modems and DSL modems) are a favorite target.
No matter how a home computer is connected to the Internet, intruders’ attacks are often successful. Many home computer owners don’t realize that they need to pay attention to computer security. In the same way that you are responsible for having insurance when you drive a car, you need to also be responsible for your home computer’s security.
Honest PC Service's Security related services will prevent intruders and their programs from accessing your computer!
.:: So, how do intruders break into your computer?
In some cases, they send you email with a virus. Reading that email activates the virus, creating an opening that intruders use to enter or access your computer. In other cases, they take advantage of a flaw or weakness in one of your computer’s programs – a vulnerability – to gain access.
Once they’re on your computer, they often install new programs that let them continue to use your computer – even after you plug the holes they used to get onto your computer in the first place. These backdoors are usually cleverly disguised so that they blend in with the other programs running on your computer.
.:: Thinking About Securing Your Home Computer
Before diving into the tasks you need to do to secure your home computer, let’s first think about the problem by relating it to something you already know how to do. In this way, you can apply your experience to this new area.
So, think of your computer as you would your house, your apartment, or your condo. What do you know about how that living space works, what do you routinely do to keep it secure, and what have you installed to improve its security? (We’ll use this “computer-is-like-a-house-and-the-things-in-it” analogy throughout, departing only a few times to make a point.)
For example, you know that if you have a loud conversation, folks outside your space can probably hear you. You also routinely lock the doors and close the windows when you leave, and you don’t give the keys to just anyone. Some of you may install a security system to complement your practices. All of these are part of living in your home.
Let’s now apply similar thinking to your home computer. Email, instant messaging, and most web traffic go across the Internet in the clear; that is, anyone who can capture that information can read it. These are things you ought to know. You should always select and use strong passwords and exercise due care when reading all email, especially the unsolicited variety. These are things you ought to do. Finally, you can add a firewall, an anti-virus program, patches, and file encryption to improve the level of security on your home computer, and we’ll call these things you ought to install.
The rest of this document describes the things you ought to know, do, and install to improve the security of your home computer.
.::Things You Ought To Know
"Knowledge is power — Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est"
— Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
One starting point for solving home computer security problems is being aware of how the Internet and some of its technologies work. If you know how they work, you can evaluate solutions to the problems that come up. You can also use the Internet more safely and responsibly. In this section, we’ll talk about two topics: trust and information in the clear as it crosses the Internet.
Human beings are trusting by nature. We trust much of what we hear on the radio, see on television, and read in the newspaper. We trust the labels on packages. We trust the mail we receive. We trust our parents, our partner or spouse, and our children. We trust our co-workers. In fact, those who don’t trust much are thought to be cynical. Their opinions may be all too quickly ignored or dismissed.
The Internet was built on trust.1 Back in the mid 1960s, computers were very expensive and slow by today’s standards, but still quite useful. To share the expensive and scarce computers installed around the country, the U.S. government funded a research project to connect these computers together so that other researchers could use them remotely. This project was called the ARPAnet, named after the government research agency – ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – that funded and managed the project.
Key to the ARPAnet was the level of trust placed in its users; there was little thought given to malicious activity. Computers communicated using a straightforward scheme that relied on everybody playing by the rules. The idea was to make sharing ideas and resources easy and as efficient as the technology of the day provided. This philosophy of trust colors many of the practices, procedures, and technologies that are still in place today.
Only within the last few years, when Internet commerce (known as e-commerce) began to spread, it has become inadequate to rely principally on trust. Since the days of the ARPAnet, we’ve changed the way we use computer networks while others have changed the underlying technologies, all in an attempt to improve the security of the Internet and the trust we place on it.
Let’s dig deeper into two examples of what we trust in our daily lives. When you receive mail through the post office, many envelopes and the letters in them contain the sender’s address. Have you ever wondered if those addresses were valid; that is, do they match the address of the person or persons who really sent them? While you could check to see that those addresses are valid and refer to the person they name, it’s not an easy task.
How would you go about it? Would you call the phone number provided with the letter? That number could also be invalid, and the person that answers the phone could be as misleading as the original address. Perhaps you could call directory assistance or the police department that has jurisdiction over the town where the letter was supposedly from. They might be helpful, but that is likely to take lots of time. Most people wouldn’t bother.
And it’s not just return addresses either. How about advertisements, news stories, or the information printed on groceries? Suppose you were on a low-fat diet. You’d want to buy foods low in fat. To select the right foods, you’d read the product label at the grocery store. How do you know that the label information is valid? What’s to say it’s not forged? And how would you know?
The Internet has many of the same issues, and email is one of the best examples. In an email message, an intruder can easily fabricate where the came from. But this information forging – called spoofing by intruders and security professionals – is not limited to just email. In fact, the basic unit of information transferred on the Internet – called a packet – can also be easily forged or spoofed.
What does this mean and why should you care? It means that any information you receive from some other computer on the Internet should not be trusted automatically and unconditionally. When you trust an email message that turns out to have a harmful virus attached to it, your computer can be infected, your files destroyed, and your work lost. And that’s why you should care.
This is how the Internet works. It was built on trust. Over time, there have been technological changes that are worthy of a higher level of our trust than before. Nonetheless, a true sense of insecurity is better than a false sense of security. So, think about the information you trust. Be critical and cautious.
Information in the Clear
When you have a conversation with someone in your living space, everybody within earshot can hear the words and probably understand them. If your conversation is especially loud and your windows open, even passersby can hear. If you want privacy, you and your conversation partner need to go to another room and close the doors and windows.
The Internet works much the same way, except the room is much, much bigger. When you send email, browse a web site, or chat online with someone, the conversation between you and that person does not go directly from your computer to his or her computer. Instead, it goes from your computer to another computer to still another computer and so on, eventually reaching his or her computer. Think of all of these computers as an Internet “room.”
Anyone, or, more accurately, any program, in that Internet room that can hear that conversation can also probably understand it. Why? Because just like the conversation at home, most Internet conversations are in the clear, meaning that the information exchanged between computer systems is not concealed or hidden in any way.
Again, this is how the Internet works. You need to know that the information sent across the Internet may be at risk of others listening in, capturing what you send, and using it for their own benefit.
Later, we’ll talk about encryption as a way to address this problem. Encryption uses mathematics to conceal information. There are many programs we can install to encrypt the information you send across the Internet.
.:: List of tasks needed to secure your computer
Here then is the list of tasks you need to do to secure your home computer. Their order is based on how intruders attack computers, beginning with the most-often used attack methods. By starting with the lower numbered tasks, you address the biggest problems you face in securing your home computer. Ask Discount PC Service to assist you in implementing these tasks!
Task 1 - Install and Use Anti-Virus Programs
Task 2 - Keep Your System Patched
Task 3 - Use Care When Reading Email with Attachments
Task 4 - Install and Use a Firewall Program
Task 5 - Make Backups of Important Files and Folders
Task 6 - Use Strong Passwords
Task 7 - Use Care When Downloading and Installing Programs
Task 8 - Install and Use a Hardware Firewall
Task 9 - Install and Use a File Encryption Program and Access Controls
Growing up, you learn many of the things you need to know about how to operate and care for a car by sitting in the back seat while adults drive and care for their vehicles. Similarly, you learn many of the things you need to know about how to care for and maintain a home by watching what is done to the one where you live. It is a slow, gradual process, so slow in fact you are probably unaware that you are learning the skills you need to do these same jobs yourself.
You don’t have that same luxury of time to learn how to care for and operate your home computer. When you attach it to the Internet for the first time, it instantly becomes a target for intruders. You need to be ready right from the start.
As you grow up, you also learn that you need to spend time and money to repair and replace those things around your living space and your car that need your attention. You learn that you have to spend more time and more money to tailor them to meet your needs and to keep you and others safe during their use. You accept these responsibilities and their costs as part of the total cost of ownership of that car and living space.
Your home computer is much the same. There is the initial money that you pay to purchase that system. Then there are additional costs to tailor it and to keep you and the others who use your system safe. These additional costs are also your responsibility, and they are part of the total cost of ownership of your home computer. Honest PC Service is here to help. Call us today at +1 (614) 208 7780.