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Security Tips for Safe Computing

The following tips are periodically updated to reflect changing security issues. This is meant as a baseline for safe computing and there are many other things you should consider to make your computing environment as safe as possible.

Last Updated September 23, 2004 by Lee Lasson lee@on-line.com

  1. Anti-Virus Software
  2. Windows Critical Updates
  3. Firewall
  4. Spybot Search and Destroy
  5. Backup Your System
  6. Application Updates

        Additional Resources

1) Anti-Virus Software

I recommend Norton Anti-Virus 2005 (NAV) or Symantec Anti-Virus Small Business Edition. Keep your virus definitions up to date. Virus definitions are updated weekly so your virus definition should not be older than one week.

Note the Virus Definitions are dated 9/22/2004 and today's date is 9/23/04. My definitions are within a week so they are probably up-to-date. You can always press the LiveUpdate button if you are feeling especially paranoid to make sure you have the very latest definitions!

After you update your virus definitions you should run a Full System Scan.

2) YOU MUST DO WINDOWS CRITICAL UPDATES!

Excuse me for shouting but I want you to know that you absolutely must do your Windows Critical Updates and Service Packs. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then I'm especially talking to you.

    http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com

    or   

    http://www.windowsupdate.com/

    or

    In Internet Explorer under the Tools menu, click Windows Update.

 

If you choose Custom Install you'll see your choices:

 

If you choose the Express Install you are doing it!

 

Installing Service Pack 2 can take awhile!

It will require a reboot when complete.

 

Choose the Update scenario that is right for you.

After you install SP2 you have a new item in your control panel. The

3) Get a Firewall

A hardware firewall is important and a must have if you are on broadband like cable or DSL. For a hardware firewall, I recommend a Linksys http://www.linksys.com. If you are on a modem your only choice is a software firewall. I recommend ZoneAlarm. You can download and use it free of charge for non-commercial use at:

    http://www.zonealarm.com

You'll need to wade through all the sales pitches to find the free version, but it is there. Download and Install it. You should do the short tutorial so you know how it works. Remember anything that you give permission to access the Internet or to act as a server may possibly open a hole in your security. Take your time, follow the advice of ZoneAlarm help and when in doubt, just say no.

I recommend using both a hardware firewall to block what is trying to get in and a software firewall to alert you to what is trying to go out. The software firewall is great on a laptop where you might be connecting to networks that are not trusted like Wi-Fi hotspots or when you dial-up by modem on the road.

I recommend Windows XP Service Pack 2 with Windows XP SP2 Firewall which is found in the new Security Center

Click in the Windows Firewall icon at the bottom of the Security Center to set Exceptions.

4) Download Spybot Search and Destroy

I highly recommend that you download and use Spybot's Search & Destroy program to find spyware that me be robbing you of your computer's performance and privacy.

    http://www.safer-networking.org

 

5) Backup Your System

Copy all your important files to other media like burn a CD with your 'My Documents' and your 'My Pictures'.

Do a Full System Backup to an External Hard Drive using the built-in Windows Backup program. It backs up your System State (Registry and system files)

Start All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Backup

 

6) Application and Office Updates

Please check all your important programs to see if there are security issues and update appropriately. A good example are the Office Updates for Microsoft Office. There is a link from Windows Update to 'Office Update' or you can go to:

    http://office.microsoft.com/OfficeUpdate/

Be advised you may need your original installation disk and product key code to install the Office Service Patches.

 

Additional Resources:

Estes Park Internet Computer Users Group
http://www.EPICUG.org

Windows XP Service Pack 2 - Microsoft's home page for SP2
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/sp2/

Troubleshooting Windows Firewall settings in Windows XP Service Pack 2
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?kbid=875357

Some programs seem to stop working after you install Windows XP Service Pack 2
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?kbid=842242

Programs that are known to experience a loss of functionality when they run on a Windows XP Service Pack 2-based computer
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?kbid=884130

Security at Home site on Microsoft.com
http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/protect/

Lee Lasson, On-Line Consulting 
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